Wednesday, January 26, 2005

AquaGib workers on one day stoppage

Workers with the water company AquaGib are expected to go ahead with a one-day stoppage this morning, it has emerged.

Water supplies should not be affected by the action being contemplated however it will not be possible to effect repairs or maintenance work on this day and customer and bill collection services will not be available.

Manuel Perez, AquaGib's managing director, said last night that Charles Sisarello, the Branch Officer of the TGWU, informed the company that his members would be staging a one-day stoppage today due to what the union had termed “an unsatisfactory response to the maintenance of pay differentials.”

Workers will assemble outside the company office as from this morning.

At the weekend AquaGib had replied to the union claim saying it had already briefed staff to the effect that at the time of the last salaries review, it had been made clear that salary increases after the review would be on the basis of matching the percentage increase granted to non-industrials in the public sector.

AquaGib say they told staff that the offer made at the time had to be accepted or rejected as a package.

The Union held a ballot of its members, who thereby accepted the package. The company has implemented that package faithfully and as you know yearly salary increases for non-industrials in the public sector have been agreed up to and including 2005. The Board nevertheless wished to develop a different Pay Structure for the future, to be clearly separate from that of the Government.

Management & Human Resources Consultants were engaged last year to carry out job evaluation exercise and to advise on such a Salary Structure and have now concluded their preliminary findings based on which options for a new salary structure are being drawn up for consideration by the Board when it next meets March 4. AquaGib says it was the union’s suggestion that they pursue a different pay structure in order to try to put an end to perceived grievances caused by movements in individual pay scales within the Government Service. The employees, said Mr Perez, should await the outcome of the next meeting of the Board, and at least consider the resulting proposals.

Unfortunately, although we have had no response from the Union to our fax, or direct confirmation from them that the action will go ahead, it appears through a communication received this afternoon that the one-day stoppage will go ahead,”
he said.

But the union in a statement said that the action is to support their claim to maintain a pay differential. The union explains that in 1991, when the water section of Government was privatised and taken over by Lyonnaise des Eaux, most of the then Government employees joined the new private firm on condition that their pay was to be established at a percentage over and above the pay of their counterparts in the Gibraltar Government.

In 2001 a similar situation occurred. Pay differentials were being eroded and the company engaged the services of a consultant and undertook an economic exercise that re-established the differential, thus reaffirming what was agreed in 1991,” it said.

The union adds that now the situation is the same. "The salaries differential of AquaGib members in comparison to Government employees has been eroding at a steady pace. Our members consider that the company must address this issues,” that said adding that the position has been reiterated to AquaGib. The Union added that it felt that unless there was immediate action by the company they were left with no alternative but to take industrial action.


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