Worker’s Memorial & May Day Message from the Leader of the Opposition Keith Azopardi

By 27th April 2022 No Comments

We commemorate Worker’s Memorial Day on Thursday and May Day on Sunday. These are two important dates in the calendar. They mark the struggle for workers’ rights and the need to reaffirm a commitment to safe, dignified working practices and good quality terms and conditions. This affects us all whether you work in the private or public sectors. At a wider level the success of our economy and of the environment for business is key to job security and to workers’ rights and the prospect of more money in your pocket.

12 months ago I lamented how the state of the public finances could affect and bring pressure on the income of workers and business and workers’ rights and aspirations. I also regretted that we still did not have a safe and beneficial agreement with the EU on a new relationship.

12 months on the Government has still failed in obtaining a safe and beneficial new relationship with the EU for Gibraltar and its residents with the consequent economic uncertainty this produces. Despite assurances given a year ago by the Government that residents would continue to have freedom of movement while the negotiations were ongoing residents who are Blue ID Card holders are not only facing discriminatory treatment at the border but are now being turned back. Measures such as those should have been pre-empted. It is no good for the Government to point fingers when it was obvious that problems could arise at the border if things lay unresolved for so long. This again can indirectly affect the economy, consumer and investor confidence and the prospect of inward investment or jobs. The only parties so far guaranteed enduring freedom of movement across the border are frontier workers who were guaranteed those rights in previous legal agreements entered into with the consent of the Government. We have, often, observed that Mr Picardo should have obtained enduring rights for residents in exchange at the same time. Our forecast that this would come back to haunt the Government is being coldly seen in the restrictions now faced by some residents. This has been a painfully slow and mishandled negotiation so far.

12 months on the state of our public finances is still bad and all indications are that the Government has not even been able to keep to the deficit it announced last year of approximately £50 Million. From public statements made it is likely that the deficit by 31 March will have been a figure in excess of a whopping £90 Million last year. We will have to see the detail when it is published. In any event the state of our public finances is dire and worsened by a reckless mismanagement of public finances over the last 10 years. This will have a further knock-on effect as to how much money there is for wage increases, tax breaks, benefits or investment in public services. How can people be seriously asked to trust Mr Picardo with that kind of record over our public finances. How can the Government ask people to tighten their belts when it cannot do so and continues to misspend the people’s money? Why should people and workers continue to bail out or trust Mr Picardo and his Government after so many failed promises?

These things are important because it affects workers, jobs, prospects, terms and conditions, salary aspirations and pension aspirations for retirement. It can affect people at all levels and of all ages. Whether they are youngsters looking for a job or people looking to retire after decades of working. It affects people and businesses in all sectors. That is why the twin issues of our finances and negotiations with the EU are so important and why trust is increasingly being lost in this Government. There is a need to put the safe management of our economy and public finances in different hands. That is the best way of protecting workers and families in the future.