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Workers Day Message from the Chief Minister - 306/2022

May 01, 2022

The celebration of Workers Day on the 1st of May is hugely important. 

It is, obviously, the most important day in the calendar for trade union and socialist organisations throughout the world.  

On this day we commemorate the sacrifices made by those who fought for the rights that we all enjoy at work today.  

Additionally, marking the day with a specific bank holiday is a demonstration of the importance that we, as a nation, ascribe to remembering those workers who laid down their lives to fight for those sacred rights we so treasure.

We have done so since we were elected in 2011.

It is for that reason also that each year since I was elected into Government we have protected the rights of workers and the terms and conditions of employment of working people throughout our economy.

In particular, I am proud to be able to say that, unlike our political opponents, the Government I lead has put up the minimum wage every single year since we were elected in 2011.  

That includes the years of the Pandemic.

That is a proud boast for a party that was responsible for the introduction of the minimum wage in the first place!

And in the ten years since we were elected the United Kingdom has been going through the notorious years of "austerity", which have not been reflected in Gibraltar.

As we adjust our public finances after the ravages of the Pandemic, we have to ensure that we continue to be true to the principles that we are celebrating on Workers Day.

We have to protect the terms and conditions of employment that have been hard fought for through the decades.  

We have to apply the principles of social justice to ensure that we protect the lowest paid in our economy and, in doing so, use the funds we have available in a way that keeps hardship at bay for those working people who most need our help.

That is why we have held a number of meetings already, at the request of Gibraltar's union leaders, so we in the Socialist Liberal Government can also hear the voice of the industrial representatives of working people on these key issues.

We have worked hard the past two years during the Pandemic to ensure that everyone's livelihoods was protected.

Our deficit arises exclusively from the Pandemic, from the payment of BEAT salaries, the costs of the GHA and the lost revenue we have suffered as a result.

But let me be clear, on the 1st of May in particular I know I have done the right thing.

Paying BEAT was the right thing to do to protect the jobs of working people during COVID.

Spending on the right PPE was the right thing to do to protect the lives of our health workers when they needed that extra investment.

The loss of revenue will come back and it was right to borrow to pay this expenditure in these extraordinary moment in our history to keep food on the table of working people in those dark days we have lived through.

We bailed out those that needed our help at the worst moments.

It was undoubtedly the right thing to do.

Now a lot of people criticise the deficit we are in, even those who agreed with us that we should pay BEAT and close our economy, with the obvious consequent loss of revenue.

We knew we were heading for a deficit when we made those decisions.

But we equally knew they were the right decisions to take to protect working people, feed their families and ensure that their jobs were going to be there when the Pandemic was over.

Now, we will take the necessary steps to correct our deficit and repay the additional debt burden we have acquired for the laudable purpose of protecting working people.

But we shall do so in a way that does not cause greater hardship to those most in need, than they ills we are trying to cure. 

That is the socialist way.