GSD May Day Message
Vigilance in the protection of workers rights By the Deputy Leader of the GSD, Daniel Feetham
The GSD opposition is happy to commemorate workers once again at this years May Day. At this time we recall the fact that over the last 150 years, workers worldwide have struggled, and sometimes paid a heavy price, for their rights, decent working conditions and a reasonable standard of living.
We are, however, saddened by the decision of the Union Unite to exclude all political parties from the public rally they are organising except for the GSLP-Liberals. The reason for this decision appears to be that the GSD in Government, like other countries in Europe, changed the date of the Public Holiday from the 1 May to the first available following Monday if the 1 May did not fall on a Monday. That was not a unilateral decision of the GSD Government. It followed a majority decision of the trades unions themselves through the Gibraltar Trades Council, whose members requested that they would rather have a long weekend off instead of a public holiday mid-week. It did not in any way diminish the importance of the 1 May to the GSD just as it did not to the trade unions that requested it.
We have no axe to grind with Unite and we wish them well, but it is not in the interest of workers for Unite to become cheerleaders of the GSLP-Liberal Government or indeed any other government. Eventually workers will pay a heavy price for this since the ability of trade unions to ensure continuing improvements for workers in the long run very much depends on their independence from the government of the day.
The GSD is proud of what it has achieved for, and the commitment it has shown to, working people both in the private and the public sector during its years in Government. During our time in office, we introduced year on year tax cuts, kept unemployment at very low levels at a time when Europe was beset by massive unemployment, increased public sector jobs, protected MOD jobs, extended redundancy, insolvency, pension and maternity rights, built hundreds of affordable homes and government rental homes for working people. As all objective trade union leaders recognise, no party has done more in government to protect and advance the interests of workers.
Workers, the unemployed and the Unions must also remain vigilant against any attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of people or their members. The new Future Job Strategy scheme is a case in point. I have no doubt that of all their manifesto commitments, the one that had the greatest electoral influence was the Future Job Strategy where the GSLP/Liberals bought votes by promising trainees and the unemployed a job in a Government-owned company after their training. We now find that:
(1) no one is guaranteed a job in a Government-owned company after their training;
(2) no one is guaranteed a job after their training anywhere;
(3) the unemployed have not been allowed onto the scheme;
(4) even if the unemployed are allowed onto the scheme in the summer, it will be by invitation only and not by right, because there would need to be an employer willing to train that individual and sign a contract which guarantees that individual a full time job at the end of his/her training;
(5) the promise of the minimum wage for trainees turns out to be subject to PAYE and social insurance contributions that they were exempt from before.
There have only been five employers (in respect of five employees) willing to sign contracts with the Government agreeing to repay the wages of a trainee, if that person is not taken on. Increasing the pay of trainees is obviously popular but it does not provide trainees with long term job security and it is a concern that people may be expected to remain as trainees on the minimum wage in perpetuity. We must all (Unite included) remain vigilant in relation to broken promises and the opportunities provided or not provided to working people.
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