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Gibraltar Paid £11.4M in 2 Months to Workers Affected by the Economic Impact of COVID19

Soraya Fernandez | Photos: Fran Montes

Gibraltar Paid £11.4M in 2 Months to Workers Affected by the Economic Impact of COVID19: Over 70% of recipients of the BEAT COVID Government grants have been cross-frontier workers, 55% of which are Spanish.

The COVID19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented worldwide health and economic crisis. Aside from the tragic loss of tens of thousands of lives, something that fortunately has not occurred in Gibraltar, which has recorded zero deaths to date, the pandemic has and continues to be a challenge for governments across the globe, and Gibraltar has been no exception.

The Government of Gibraltar launched the “BEAT COVID Employee Program” to combat and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, and this has been a lifeline for many companies, self-employed people, and workers on the Rock.

Fabian Picardo

The program has supported workers whose employers had registered them as “inactive” during the lockdown, as well as companies that would not otherwise been able to maintain payment of wages. The purpose of the program was also to avoid layoffs, which it has so far achieved. The Gibraltar Government also warned that it would not allow any kind of abuse.

During the harshest periods of the pandemic, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo announced the payment of a minimum wage to workers who were made inactive due to the lockdown to avoid dismissals, regardless of nationality or place of residence. Full-time employees received £1,115 (or around €1,259) per month – a significant but necessary disbursement for the government, which has kept to its word.

From April to May, the Government of Gibraltar paid out a total of £11.2 million in these grants, and over 70% of beneficiaries have been cross-frontier workers; 55% of whom are Spanish nationals.

This was confirmed to ReachExtra by Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Transport, Vijay Daryanani, who provided us with further figures on the BEAT COVID program.

In April, the Government paid £6.4 million to over 6,285 workers, with 3,354 of them being Spanish nationals, who received a total of £3.5 million.

During the month of May, the Government paid out £4.810 million to 4,910 workers; with 2,600 being Spaniards who received a total of £2.6 million.

Approximately 30% of the beneficiaries have been residents of Gibraltar, with the rest being cross-frontier workers.

Minister Daryanani added that this financial support program will continue at a reduced scale until 30th of September.

The Chief Minister assured that the BEAT COVID measures would be a “lifesaver” for the economy of the Campo de Gibraltar when it was announced during the COVID19 lockdown, and this has most definitely been the case – especially for some 14,000 cross-frontier workers of whom 9,000 are Spanish nationals, who would otherwise have been left in ‘no man’s land’.

Reflecting on the contribution that these measures have had on the local economy, the Government of Gibraltar said: “We are clear that employees and the companies that they work for are the soul of the economy. Employees are the most valuable asset of a business and the most difficult to replace. So, we are going to create a new legal status for employees in this COVID19 period; that of “the inactive employee”, Mr. Picardo said when this was officially announced.

This package has also provided a lifeline for La Línea de la Concepción, where most of Gibraltar’s cross-frontier workers live. The Mayor of La Línea, Juan Franco, has publicly thanked and recognised the efforts made by the Government of Gibraltar for helping families meet their basic needs throughout the pandemic – this has avoided a humanitarian crisis in the City.

The Sociocultural Association of Spanish Workers in Gibraltar (ASCTEG) have said that these grants have made it possible to protect this group of workers on the Rock as well as companies. “In Gibraltar, the coverage has been very positive and benefited many workers who became temporarily unemployed due to COVID, as well as the companies,” the spokesman for ASCTEG Juan José Uceda said. He also stated that the program has worked and that every inactive employee has received their BEAT COVID payments.

Of course, people who were not under a contract, as in the case of domestic workers, have not been able to access this minimum wage – this has also happened in Spain. In addition, he denounces that some unscrupulous companies are pressuring their workers to agree to their dismissal “because they do not have the income from before due to the fall in tourism.”

Picardo Nominated for the “La Línea Gold Medal”

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The efforts made by the Gibraltarian government has received important recognition in La Línea. The president of the Cross-Border Group and the Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises of La Línea (Apymel), Lorenzo Pérez-Periáñez, has proposed the award of the La Línea Gold Medal to Fabian Picardo and the people of Gibraltar, an initiative which has supported the sociocultural association “Mar del Sur”.

“It has been a very important effort and says a lot about the Government of Gibraltar and the Chief Minister, who I think has put his political ideals in favour of the working class before any other consideration, even though it involves a significant expense,” Pérez-Periáñez explains.

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In addition, he highlights that this minimum wage has been a great relief for thousands of La Línea families “who have been able to afford basic expenses during this period. The opposite would have supposed a dramatic situation in our city. For La Línea, this has been an unprecedented gesture and that is why I think it is necessary to award the Gold Medal of our city to Fabian Picardo on behalf of the people of Gibraltar,” he added.

He also maintains that during this health crisis there have been many gestures of solidarity by the people of Gibraltar, such as the donation of masks or the payment of electricity and water bills to many families. “Many of these actions we have known but there have been many others that have not been made public. The people of Gibraltar have always been very supportive of La Línea and they deserve this recognition by awarding the Gold Medal,” he says.

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