The UK Government yesterday announced a raft of reforms set to protect UK workers, including the closure of loopholes that allow agency workers to be employed on cheaper rates than permanent employees. The reforms follow a report produced by Mathew Taylor (CEO of the Royal Society of the Arts) on employment practices in the UK which the Prime Minister had commissioned in 2016. The reforms were rightly described by Business Secretary, Greg Clark, has the “largest upgrade in workers’ rights in [the UK] over a generation”.

It is really sad that at a time when UK workers’ rights will experience a quantum leap, the Government refuses to step in and do anything to prevent the exploitation of agency workers in Gibraltar.

On the contrary the Government appears to be content to see the owners of recruitment agencies line their pockets at the expense of agency workers, most of which are young people.

Many of these workers simply cannot get a mortgage because of the insecurity of their job situation and will rightly feel that being asked to spend up to £300,000 on so-called “affordable homes” at Hassans Centenary Terraces is at best a distant dream. It shows how disconnected the Government has become from the aspirations of working people in this community.

It will also be recalled that it was this Government that very early on in its first term in office, in 2013, increased the amount of time agency workers needed to work in a job to qualify for the same pay and leave entitlements as their permanent counterparts from 12 weeks (as it was in the UK) to 52 weeks. It has never been explained why that was necessary and it has prevented hundreds of agency workers from acquiring rights as to pay and leave as their permanent public service counterparts.

Even this 52 week period is not being respected. Through the simple device of transferring workers from one part of the public service to another, workers are not being allowed to accrue better rights as to pay and leave.

Daniel Feetham MP said “It is an indictment of the Government’s socialist credentials that while questionable legal loopholes are being closed by a Conservative Government in the UK a Socialist Government in Gibraltar is perpetuating them. For us this has not just been about criticising the Government. We have been positive and made public our own proposals for reform. Those reforms includes advertising genuine vacancies in the public service, reducing the qualifying period from 52 weeks to 12 weeks as it was prior to 2013, but also closing all legal loopholes that prevent workers from acquiring the same rights as their permanent counterparts. We also need to tackle zero hour contracts which is something that the UK has not dealt with but which we like to put an end to.”