Unite the Union has challenged the Gibraltar Government to act on promises to tackle the “scourge” of insecure work on the Rock.
Calling for a ban on the use of zero hours contracts, the union has developed a 15-point plan which it believes will bring much-needed stability to the lives of working people in Gibraltar.
The move follows the demonstration on January 16 this year which saw more than one thousand people take to the streets in protest over the ‘widespread’ use of agency and supply workers in the private and public sector, including by the government itself.
The ‘Manifesto for Change in the Labour Market’, set out in a letter to the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, seeks changes in legislation around agency and fixed term contract workers, as well as the adoption of New Zealand-style legislation to effectively ban the use of zero hour contracts.
In addition, the union is seeking further dialogue with the Government to secure a meaningful review of all temporary working arrangements across the public sector with a view to these roles being converted into permanent positions.
In the letter to Mr Picardo, Stuart Davies, Unite national officer for Gibraltar, tells him that the union recognises there is some common ground between the Government and Unite on these issues, “which is positive”.
“It was agreed that Unite would submit in writing to your office the union’s manifesto for change in respect of insecure work and turning back the tide of casualisation,” he said.
“This is an agenda that has developed as Unite listened to the stories of our members, other union members and non-union members on the 16th and beyond, stories which have only strengthened the union’s resolve on these issues and belief that they need to be tackled positively and with full engagement of the union.”
Mr Davies said it was therefore with mixed feelings that the announcement made last week regarding the offer of permanent employment to almost 200 agency workers in the civil service was met.
“The announcement is an overwhelmingly positive and first step in the right direction,” he said.
“You only need to see the reaction of those agency workers when you announced the offer of permanent roles and when questioned your subsequent confirmation of access to the relevant occupational pension scheme to understand what the provision of a good, quality job means to these individuals.”
“It further demonstrates that this is the right issue for Unite to be campaigning on, the one that your Government and Unite should work collaboratively and positively on to resolve, but it also begs the question as to why such a position was allowed to develop and continue in the civil service.”
“It is therefore disappointing that the welcomed and positive noises from your Government on the forward resolution of these issues did not correspond into full consultation with the union on the announcement this week given that Unite is a key stakeholder in the Gibraltar Development Corporation,” Mr Davies said.
“It will no doubt be argued that you were simply fulfilling previous commitments provided around these workers and the announcement was not influenced by the activities on January 16, but the timing cannot be ignored and Unite do not consider the timing to be coincidental.”
Mr Davies added that Unite trusts that such a failure to engage and consult with the union is a one-off and will not mark out the approach being adopted by Mr Picardo’s offices on this issue.
Additionally, in a statement Mr Davies said: “Today we’re building on the union’s campaign against insecure employment in Gibraltar, which got off to a tremendous start with the landmark demonstration in January where our membership and the wider community provided the union with a clear mandate on these issues.”
“We need urgent action to change bad practice not just in the civil service but right across both the public and private sectors if we are going to erase the scourge of insecure work in Gibraltar.”
“The manifesto, which has been ratified by the Unite Gibraltar Activists Committee, seeks to address these issues through a series of measures that will deliver permanent and quality employment to those insecure workers currently wondering whether they have a job and a pay packet at the end of next week.”
“We have welcomed the announcement this week of the offer of permanent employment to 176 agency workers in the civil service. However, these workers are just the tip of the iceberg; the issues which brought people onto the streets last month are not restricted to civil servants.”
“It is also frustrating that the union was not consulted at all on this announcement and this taints the positivity around this development. It is imperative that the government of Gibraltar engage positively and constructively on this agenda with Unite to turn back the tide of employment casualisation in Gibraltar.”
“The positive reaction of those agency workers, when it was announced that they would be offered permanent roles, demonstrated what it means to have a permanent job role, with decent conditions, a pension and a future. Unite is delighted for those agency workers and we will work tirelessly to deliver more of the same to those workers on insecure contracts, to remove unfairness and inequality in the labour market and deliver labour standards in Gibraltar that all can be proud of.”