ERG calls government to action on Trade Union law


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In the lead-up to International Workers’ Memorial Day, which commemorates working people who have died in the course of their employment, and ahead of International Workers’ Day on 1st May, Equality Rights Group (ERG) has issued a statement.

‘The importance of workers’ rights is obvious to anyone of conscience and understanding. It is a fundamental of living in a free and open democratic society that working people should be safeguarded from the excesses that used to be the order of the day until the emergence of the trades union movement and its legalisation in the United Kingdom in 1871 with the adoption of the Trade Union Act; while the first recognisable workers’ movement in Gibraltar arose in the late nineteenth century to organise the heavy work of the coalheavers (see photo below) who worked to service the increasing numbers of steam ships entering Gibraltar on their way to the Suez Canal. More structured trades union organisation emerged in Gibraltar in 1919 with the establishment of the Workers’ Union, a local branch of its British parent Union of the same name.

‘ERG honours all working people and, as such, today marks the commencement of its ‘Support Workers’ Right to a Union’ call to action. Many people will be shocked to discover that the law in Gibraltar, as it currently stands, does not guarantee the right of workers to be represented by their chosen Union in their place of work. Companies are still able to refuse to recognise a Union, and as such negotiations between workers and employers are managed without collective representation of members of the Union because, incredibly, employers today are able to refuse to recognise a Union. And this is happening in 2021, not 1871!

Coalheavers at work in Gibraltar. Heavy physical labour which prompted the first attempts to organise working people.

‘The Government of Gibraltar says it is committed to changing this. And to this end, almost a year ago in June 2020 and after much lobbying, it issued a document setting out proposals for the changes that need to be undertaken.

‘We do not question government’s intentions. But nothing has been done to date.

‘Consequently, workers are just as defenceless today as they were before June 2020. The legislative amendments are still lying on some table somewhere. Those changes need to get to Parliament; government’s path is clearer now because despite many difficulties, the seismic shocks of Brexit and Covid19 have lessened.  And these regulations can’t be left at the bottom of the tray any longer.

‘On this very day, when we remember the deaths of ordinary people in the workplace, the question must be: how many unnecessary deaths could have been avoided over the years if workers had been permitted the strength of their Union to represent their interests and their safety?’

‘Equality Rights Group stands squarely with the rights of all working people. These regulations must be adopted and come into force without any excuses. Without further delays. We call openly on Government to deliver!’ the statement ends.