Back into the serious side of blogging now, after the minor distractions of cat bites, cavalcades, the living Nativity, and everything else that characterises the average Christmas/New Year break.
Let’s start with employment, because for 150 or so people, the first week of the new year did not bring good news.
This is totally anecdotal, ie it is second-hand from people we met this weekend. However, I have found me a story in Gib Chron that suggests that the word on the street is not too far off the mark at all.
So there we were on the dog walk, and we met a British painter who currently lives in Gib. He told us that the government had called in JBS to discuss their employees. Well, getting rid of their employees to be more accurate.
JBS is actually Gibralter Joinery and Business Services Ltd, a government-owned construction company. Over the previous few years, they have taken on large numbers of cross-border workers.
Now, there is no way I can not make this a non-political point, because it is, but it was pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain that when people were working all hours under the sun, – and the moon, on overtime, to make progress on new car parks, housing estates, airport terminals etc etc all in time before the election is called – that it was going to cost (the tax-payer) money. And when there are people in Gib who are out of work and want to work, this sticks in the throat.
Well it sticks in mine and it clearly sticks in Joe Bossano’s throat too. Joe is our new Minister for Employment (and Training and Enterprise), if there is anyone out there not aware of this fact.
Because on Friday, apparently JBS laid people off. Now, according to the Chron, most of these people were sub-contract cross-border workers on short-term contracts. Hmmm.
Back to the Word on the Street (1) – the government was asking for upwards of 300 people to be laid off, but settled for 150. Now this contact isn’t working for JBS so that’s as much as he said, although we did have the usual Gib chat about people coming in over the border and taking money out of Gib.
Word on the Street (2) was today, on – yes, yet another dog walk. We spotted a construction colleague who was employed directly by JBS in non-skilled work. Until Friday. He was told he was British, lived in Spain, and his job would be going to a Gibraltarian. All the other employees who were dismissed were similarly non-Gibraltarian ~ according to him.
He had previously worked for Haymills (another construction company) – which went skint rather suddenly and with a sigificant cloud over its head – and then he was taken on by JBS who took on a lot of the Haymills staff.
So what’s he going to do? Well, he’s entitled to Spanish unemployment benefit which lasts for up to two years (at decreasing rates) but is linked to previous salary. So he’s taking a year off. He put a brave face on it.
Compare this with yet another Gib painter met this morning. He’d been to Social Security to get the forms for special assistance because he was out of work, the bills had come in, and he couldn’t pay them, and he has a family to feed.
Partner had already been to the job centre that morning and told him there was one unskilled painting vacancy, so your man decided to hot-foot it up there and have a look at it.
So when people wonder why this whole employment issue stirs up such strong feelings this is why. I see no reason at all why a Gibraltarian resident, capable of doing good quality work, can not get a job in Gibraltar – when hundreds of cross-border workers do get those jobs. For the record I am not just talking Spanish here, this includes, Brits, Portuguese, Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, and anyone else living within a 50km radius of Gib – in some cases 100kms plus. No-one likes being made redundant, laid-off, sacked, whatever, – I’ve been there too, and my sympathies go out to people facing a new year without a job. But the Gibraltar economy is strange, properties are expensive either to rent or to buy, the cost of living is higher than nearby Spain, wages are low, and to see full employment on decent wages for locals seems to be a reasonable aspiration to me.
I will be reporting more about the employment status here in Gibraltar as it is one which concerns so many of us. The construction industry is a big contributor to the Gib economy but unless you have any insight into it, it isn’t obvious how it operates.
Caveat reader: the above tales are merely chats I recount from the last couple of days. I have no official press release to quote, and I haven’t asked for my interview with Mr Bossano yet to ask him about his employment policy. The brief and not very informative Chron article is here.