Wednesday, January 26, 2005

GSP Officers stage silent protest outside Naval Base

Pay dispute with MOD

F Oliva reports

GSP officers will be carrying out an unprecedented three-hour protest outside the Naval Base this afternoon to draw attention to a series of unresolved pay and pay related claims in a long-standing dispute with the Ministry of Defence. The action in pursuit of an employment issue will be the first of its kind ever carried out by the GSP or any police organisation in Gibraltar.

According to the Gibraltar Services Police Staff Association they are owed in excess of £1m. The protest is expected to commence at 2.30pm and will be carried out only by off-duty officers who will be carrying placards but remain silent throughout, without interfering with any military or civilian personnel or traffic flow. GSPSA chairman Ruben Benggio said that the whole force was supporting today’s action that will be repeated at the same time tomorrow Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday Tony Christodoulides of Marrache and Co, who is the legal advisor for the GSPSA said that their aim was to persuade the MoD to set up an efficient local negotiating and dispute resolution procedure where historical claims related to the non-application of the parity principle could be dealt with. “We are fighting employment issues that were resolved 30 years ago.
The MoD is acting in an abysmal manner and they should be ashamed,” he said.

The GSPSA are critical of the MoD and say that their behaviour as an employer and approach to industrial relations remains “firmly rooted in the past.” Mr Christodoulides said that besides the protest, they would be keeping up the pressure through a continuing political campaign in the UK Parliament that has been taken up by MP’s Andrew McKinlay and Bruce George. This would be the main focus of their campaign which would be continued with litigation and further protests if necessary. He also declared that the continuing dispute was having an effect on the morale of the force, and was affecting their trust in the MoD and stated that “MoD Gibraltar probably with the connivance of MoD in UK is in breach of the UK Government’s guidelines for the resolution of disputes.”

Open Letter to MOD

The GSPSA have written to Ministers of State at the MOD Adam Ingram and Ivor Caplin of Defence where they accuse the department of “withholding money” having “a contradictory position,” and of not giving them a satisfactory explanation when questioned on January 19th.

The letter states:

For over two years you have been withholding money properly due to members of the force. When you can no longer delay the payment, as an excuse for not handing over the members’ money you claim that they have received an overpayment. When challenged you refuse to give reasons.

All that has transpired from the correspondence is the MoD says it has the power to withhold moneys and it will exercise it. Therefore in our view it would be disingenuous to say an answer has been provided.

House of Commons Question

Meanwhile in the House of Commons, Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay asked the Secretary of State for Defence a series of question related to the dispute on January 19th 2005. Mr Mackinlay asked the UK Government on what date they had received the views of the Gibraltar Service Police Association on the intention to deduct moneys from police officers arising from the dispute about the payment of rent allowances and the application of the analogue principle, and also for what reasons a substantive reply has not been sent.

In reply Minister Kaplan said that Ministry of Defence officials in Gibraltar first received correspondence from Marrache and Company, the solicitors acting for the GSP Association in February 2004.

He said MOD officials have been involved in a long exchange of correspondence with the solicitors in which they have consistently set out “the Department’s intention to recover the over-payment.” He added that Marrache and Company have had a copy of the letter from MOD officials to the GSPSA, which sets out the Department’s position in detail, since February 2004.

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