I’m one of life’s down and outs. Or that’s what it feels like sometimes.
Partner went to the job centre today to look at the board for craft trades. When he walked in, the security guy looked at him, didn’t recognise him, so Partner explained what he wanted.
Security guy started to give directions and explain the procedure, but Partner said thanks, he knew where to go.
When I walk in, the security guards know me, because I’m a regular. Great. Unemployed and have been all year in spite of a few interviews so I’m a hopeless case at the job centre.
Today there were no jobs available in the craft section, plenty of gaming jobs, and some managerial ones.
Is the work market in Gib bad? I keep hearing it’s the only hope of people on the other side of the border. That Gib keeps the other side going etc. etc.
The employment situation in Gib is so complex that it merits its own post. With the exception of the border closure under Franco in 1969 to the early eighties, there has always been cross-border employment.
A few facts, not necessarily related:
- When the border was closed, work was carried out by Gibraltarians, Moroccans, and some British firms.
- With the decline of the MOD presence in Gibraltar, there was a marked decrease in opportunity for Gibraltarians to learn craft and technical trades, leaving the local population without sufficient skilled tradespeople eg bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters, decorators, mechanics, electricians, plumbers etc.
- The shrinkage of the former directly-employed workers in government departments led to the same syndrome.
- In recent years, the government has started to encourage apprenticeships in a variety of trades to make up for this deficit.
- When the border was closed, wages in Gibraltar were higher. People working in Gibraltar could command a decent rate for their work without the influx of cheap migrant workers to depress wages.
- The cost of living in Gibraltar is basically higher than Spain, although some things are cheaper. Private property is not cheap. Government housing is cheap. Wages are low compared to the UK, but high compared to Spain. Why would a Spaniard not work in Gibraltar? People speak Spanish, the money is good, and there are no jobs in La Linea and the surrounding area – the Campo de Gibraltar – anyway.
Leaving aside construction, which is one of the biggest areas for cross-border work, how about office staff? Well, Spaniards who speak reasonable English can also get jobs. We met a Spanish woman working for a financial company, who was being funded for evening classes in Spain in accountancy.
Or cleaning? With the exception of a couple of British people who have their own business here who we know, most cleaners in Gibraltar are Spanish. Naturally those who work in private properties are on the black.
Gaming industry? Ah the Eastern Europeans have the edge here. Needless to state, most of those live in Spain too. Gaming is the province of young hungry people who don’t mind doing night shifts, immoral work, and are happy to wear black clothes to work and spend all their breaks outside the building, smoking.
Shop work? Yup, you’ll find Spaniards working in shops, and Eastern Europeans too. The EEs have the advantage, they can do English and Spanish (and Rumanian, Finnish, Estonian, Polish, Russian etc although not that they need all those if they speak English and Spanish.)
Bar work? Plenty of work for Spaniards there too – and again, lots of EEs.
So is Gib the only hope of employment for people in Spain? For many of them, yes.
And how does that affect people in Gibraltar?
The new government (socialist/liberal alliance), which came into power in December 2011, has taken a strong stance on employment trying to ensure that jobs are found for Gibraltarians. Well, in theory.
Jobs need to be advertised at the job centre, and in January and for the next few months, there was a plethora of vacancies. Where had they all come from I wondered? As I applied for some and heard nothing, applied for others and received interviews, and weeks later, and I mean weeks, going into months, eventually got the rejection letters.
I saw one job re-advertised. It brought a wry smile to my face as the letter I had received said the person they had chosen had significant experience in the field and could hit the ground running, or some such jargon. Must have fallen on his face. Or left the field.
One job was a definite set-up. I knew it before I applied, but thought it was worth a go. If nothing else, it was my area of expertise and something I knew I could do. Sadly, a job for the boys. [No, not a sexist mistake on my part, the interview panel was three men, when I asked who the panel members would be beforehand, I was told that information was not available, and I would bet serious money that job went to one of the boys.]
I know, because I have been on the receiving end of that sort of set-up, where the job was mine and I still had to go through the performance, as did a few other candidates who were not (hopefully) going to get the job. Years after that, it was still happening, when a colleague had to apply for a job that had been deliberately designed for her skills and experience.
Whatever happened to basic promotion? Why waste people’s time in the so-called attempt to demonstrate equal opportunities of employment? Might as well just promote or appoint someone in the first place.
But the office job situation is nothing like the black economy that operates in parallel with the legitimate one.
I’m not even talking cigarette or drug smuggling here. Just plain old working on the black, not paying tax or social security and taking cash money as a full-time living.
While the cleaners may work part-time, the construction workers are working 40 hours a week, and some of them have been working here illegally for 20 years or more.
And how many times have our efficient government employees felt their collars? None.
Some of them work ‘for themselves’. This means they are not registered in Gibraltar, have no public liability or personal insurance, and contribute JSN to the system. No, don’t be silly, of course they are not registered in Spain. Most of them don’t even speak Spanish so how on earth would they negotiate the mire to register a business in Spain?
Others ‘sub-contract’ also on the black. Same applies again.
What is the point of registering a business in Gibraltar at Companies House, registering with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Employment Training Board, and the Tax Office every year? which are all legal requirements here for a construction business, when you are competing with scab labour like that.
The going rate for these Brits who live the good life in Spain, is between £80 and £120 day. Whatever we get in our business, we have to deduct tax and social, and take into account costs such as registration fees, insurance, office costs, business premises, bank charges, and people still gripe about the price.
Or what about a Spaniard we know? Nice guy, works for £100 a day. It’s a día completo. So however many hours he works he charges £100. Half a day, £100. A full day, £100. I have no argument with his pricing, because I don’t agree with the concept of an hourly or daily rate so if that’s what he chooses to charge, up to him. I do have a problem with the fact that he is not registered in Gibraltar.
Meanwhile, the government promises jobs for Gibraltarians, and someone we know, can’t get a job as a labourer. Another can’t get a job as a welder and he is extremely good at his job.
The change in rules now means that if a cross-border worker (of whatever nationality) is laid-off, it is going to be harder to re-employ them. If it is even possible.
So then what happens? Lay off the Gibbos first, because they can always be re-employed. Hang onto the Spaniards because once they are gone, you can’t get them back. Great policy there.
Or maybe you can get the Spaniards back. You can call them a specialist when you fill out the forms for the ETB. And say there is no local labour to fill that post.
And what does laying off cross-border workers do? It drives down the price even more as they all flock across the frontier to work for themselves on the black. They’ll work for less than £80 a day, they will work for £40 a day. Notices stuck around lamposts with Spanish mobile numbers offering everything under the sun.
This, explains why we struggle to make a living with a legitimate business.
Unlike a couple of chancers Partner saw today. Neither of them are skilled, apart from in chancing. They both live in Spain.
He knows them both so stopped to speak. They were looking at pricing up painting the outside of a building that needed scaffolding. ‘That’s rough, it will need two pack (sealer plus paint),’ said Partner helpfully.
‘What’s that?’ said these two enterpreneurs, experienced in the painting and decorating industry. As if. Partner shrugged. And wondered how the hell they got to quote for jobs.