May Day & Workers Memorial Day 2023 Message from Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi
The cost of living crisis is biting hard on people. Supermarket food prices have rocketed over the last 18 months, mortgage rates have risen significantly and there’s been higher taxes, fees and charges that have increased the burden on families. This has been a tough year for people. Whether you work in a business or as an employee in the public or private sector the road to recovery is long and hard.
All this has been made worse by the Government’s inability to properly deal with the public finances crisis and the perilous way it has racked up debt over the last 12 years. Gibraltar is in a financial mess largely of the Government’s making and was already on the cliff edge when COVID arrived on our shores to make the financial challenge worse.
To get out of this situation requires clear direction, a willingness to address the public finances crisis and deliver a plan to take us out of the red. We have never been more in debt as a community. Things can only get worse if those who have immersed us in this mess continue in office.
We are in election year. This will be held within weeks or months and will provide an opportunity for a decision by you that could lay the basis for a recalibration of what Gibraltar needs to secure its future. In short there is a need for change and a new way.
We often meet people who face a real crisis of opportunities. At its most basic they find it hard to secure dignified employment. Some of them face a Government that often drags its bureaucratic feet or doesn’t listen even when they are told of an individual’s predicament. There is a dearth of opportunity or training for young people without academic aspirations. Equally there is a real sense that employment opportunities come by for some depending on who they know and not necessarily on merit. Some people feel abandoned when all they are trying to do is to put food on the table and look after their children and family.
It is a terrible verdict on the state of things that there are people who are struggling to make ends meet when there is an emerging class of privileged few who not only seem untouched by the cost of living crisis but seem untouchable from the hardships working families need to endure.
This Workers Memorial Day and May Day weekend we mark two important dates in the calendar. The first reflects on persons injured or lost in places of employment. We reaffirm our commitment to health & safety standards to ensure people are not at risk when they are at work. The second marks the wider celebration of workers worldwide.
To be meaningful these need to be more than just words on a public holiday. May Day 2023 is the first workers day since the 50th anniversary of the 1972 General Strike. Then people fought hard for parity and better terms and conditions. Now 50 years on there are people who struggle in this cost of living crisis. They struggle also to find opportunities and against unfairness. They simply deserve more. As we go forward to the next election I pledge that the GSD will keep that thought uppermost in our minds if we are elected to Government later this year and will ensure that the changes we seek to make maximise fairness and opportunity and benefit those on lower incomes in priority.