Monday, February 28, 2005

The Government will make it very difficult for MoD contractors to trade in Gibraltar, say Unions

Military base industrial dispute intensifies

The Gibraltar Government will be making it extremely difficult for any contractor to come into Gibraltar to take the MoD jobs, TGWU sources said to the Chronicle at the weekend.

Among the measures that the Chief Minister is reportedly considering making the main ISP contractor accept a compulsory statutory occupational pension for every former MoD employee it takes on, and also introducing measures to increase the redundancy payment agreement applicable to Gibraltar. According to Union sources, a reactivation of the fair wages clause is another of the measures currently being studied by Convent Place. The TGWU said that the measures announced by the Chief Minister Peter Caruana last week were aimed at making potential contractors understand that they will not have an easy time in Gibraltar and that the operation will be made as expensive as possible for them.

As regards the dispute with the MoD the Gibraltar Trades Council met on Friday to discuss the plan of industrial action and how and when it will be implemented as from this week.

Meanwhile the TGWU has said it wished to clarify that Thursday’s press conference by the GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) where a delegation of the Gibraltar Trades Council and the other Unions were present, was not a joint press conference and should not be interpreted as a move by the Unions toward the political position defended by Joe Bossano. “The Union does not support any political party,” said a spokesman.

Speaking to the Chronicle the spokesman said that the Unions were supporting both the Government and the Opposition in the stand they were taking, and that the fact that they were present during the press conference was because of a coincidence of timings, since their meeting with the GSLP had been scheduled for the same time.

Meanwhile Transport House has also declared that the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce have asked to meet the TGWU this week to be informed of the situation in the MoD before making public their own views on the contractorisation dispute.

Grab a TAXI!

TAXI is a new name to look out for in the Spanish music market, with Dylan Ferro, Danny Fa and Danny Bugeja.

The former members of Melon Diesel have already created much interest in their new group venture signing a record deal with Sena records. The first single taken from their first album recorded in American and Spain is En Mi Coche. The album called Libre is set for release on 15 March. The Chronicle has three copies of the single, which is not available commercially, to give away signed by the group members. More details this week in the Gibraltar Chronicle.

New Project to promote Gibraltar's Port

A new initiative to promote Gibraltar’s port and shipping has just been launched. It is the Gibraltar Shipping Showcase, which consists of a full-colour printed edition, an online edition and updates.

The printed edition is supported by Gibraltar’s maritime community and the Gibraltar Government which will also use it as part of their promotion of the port. The full-colour glossy magazine is also being made available at international shipping conferences and trade shows.

At the same time there has been simultaneous publication in the Singapore Business Times of a Gibraltar shipping special, to reach the important Asian market.
A dedicated website has also been set up, and can be accessed at www.GibraltarShippingShowcase.com. It will be updated throughout the year.

A spokesman said that, with the printed edition, online edition and updates, the project provides year-round exposure to Gibraltar’s port and shipping world.

Reports included range from cruise ships to bunkering, and from ship registry to Gibraltar as a centre for shipping and trade. It is also revealed that an ‘Invest Gibraltar’ initiative is to be launched by the Government to attract investment to Gibraltar.

Port minister Joe Holliday writes that “Gibraltar is fast developing as a broadly based international maritime centre.”

The MoD – Union clash: 1974

by Jonathan Jeffries

Recently released British Government files have shown the continued spying that took place on Gibraltarian trade unionists during 1974 by Special Branch department within the Royal Gibraltar Police.

The focus of the four files released was on the ‘parity with British workers campaign’ organised by the TGWU.

One of the most interesting items was a Special branch report that singled out five trade unionists involved in organising this parity campaign. They were all labelled as Communist and anarchists. They included Jose Netto who was said to have been a member of Spanish exiled Anarchist Party and to be ‘well versed in this philosophy (anarchism) into which he self educated himself by copious reading of Anarchist literature sent to him from abroad’. The report further states that the police had good information that his son Michael had join the Young Communist League whilst in Britain.

There is a further report on Jose Netto where a ‘reliable and delicate source’ had had a two hour long informal meeting. Ironically there is another transcript on an informal meeting between Jose Netto and the Deputy Governor. It was not clear whether Special Branch had used the Deputy Governor’s confidential transcript; re-written and applied a Secret status.

Joe Bossano is accused of having joined the Communist party of Great Britain. The police stated that they had checked with the security services (most probably MI5) in London to find out if this was true but they could not confirm this. It was also surprising to find a reference to a telephone conversation between Bossano and the Deputy Governor had been listened to on a ‘parallel line’. It is not clear whether parallel line meant a clear admittance of phone tapping activities either at the Covent or at the TGWU offices. The others mentioned in this report include Esteban Berllaque, Louis Martinez, and Antonio Rocca.

It was revealed that the Governor had considered the using troops during any possible industrial action. The Queens Regiments and the paratroopers were on standby. The Governor also contemplated, during 16 Dec 1974, to ‘proclaim a state of emergency’. What led the Governor to consider such an extreme response was the strength of feeling amongst Gibraltarian workers both in MoD and Gibraltar Government. It was clear from much correspondence that, from the outset, the Chief Minister, Sir Joshua Hassan did not want Gibraltar Government employees to have parity of wages and conditions of employment with UK counterparts. This was even when the Union argued that it would raise more taxes and standard of living and would further remove the threat of Spain.

The TGWU in Gibraltar sought the support of the TGWU in London and specifically Jack Jones, former General Secretary, and Harry Urwin, former assistant General Secretary, to negotiate with Roy Hattersley, former Foreign Commonwealth Secretary of State on this issue.

In fact as Hattersley was to meet with Jose he was warned that as minister he should not become a ‘court of appeal on labour matters.’ The F&CO initially argued against the campaign and argued that he [as secretary of state] did not have the ‘power to settle wage dispute’ in either the MoD or Government of Gibraltar.

The MoD argued that Gibraltar was the only dockyard overseas and it needed to be competitive or else it would close; and stated ‘if you lose your dockyard, because the Chancellor cannot afford it, are the dockyard workers prepared to work on the construction sites in Gibraltar or face unemployment’. They had also considered that parity to be extended only to MoD and not Government of Gibraltar. Nevermind the shirking of responsibilities the British Government did fear that not responding to the Union’s demands would have lead to another general strike. The F&CO were more concerned to continue negotiations and to defend Hassan. This is possibly after a special branch report stated that the ‘dispute is becoming more political in nature. The aims seems to be not so much parity but attempt to oust the Hassan administration’. The police report argued that Joe Bossano, as a founder of Integration with Britain Party, was the clear link that the threat of industrial action was politically motivated.

Another item of interest in relationship between the F&CO and Government of Gibraltar was over ‘false articles’ printed in the now defunct Evening Post newspaper. The articles stated a resounding ‘no’ to parity but ‘yes’ to new approach to resolve the issue. The F&CO knew that the Evening Post was owned by several ministers; M Featherstone, M Mascarenhas and A Montegriffo. The F&CO said the paper should have asked for legal advice before publishing. But also that if the paper’s rejection to parity claims was the line of the Gibraltar Government then it should not hide behind either the paper or British ‘HMG’ but to sort its own industrial relations problems.

The campaign was a triumph and parity survives as a key plank in the Collective bargaining across the public sector. The TGWU had a membership willing to support industrial action. Combined with good political manoeuvring by Jose Netto. Jose understood that with a labour party sympathetic to trade unions in Britain, he could use further pressure point on both the Gibraltar Government and the MoD in Gibraltar.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Real Madrid stars set to sue Internet Gaming Companies

Gibraltar firms included in list

Top Spanish soccer club Real Madrid said on Friday it and several of its top players are taking legal action against online betting firms over what it alleges is unauthorised use of its name and players’ images.

Star players Ronaldo, David Beckham, Raul, Zinedine Zidane and Figo are joining the club in the legal action, Real Madrid said in a statement.

They are taking action against British-based Ladbrokes, William Hill, Sportingbet PLC and Sporting Exchange Ltd as well as BAW International Ltd of Gibraltar and Malta-based Mr Bookmaker.com.

Unspecified legal steps had already been launched in France, Belgium and Germany against these companies, it said. The club wants the companies to stop using the images and to “repair the harm caused”.

In recent years, we have seen spectacular growth of sports betting activities organised by companies that operate on the Internet, the club’s statement said.

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said the group sourced the images on its website from a reputable supplier who they believed had authorisation.

What they are saying is not very clear, but we’ll watch with interest and defend our position robustly. We have no plans to change the way we take bets.

Real Madrid alleged that the companies used the name of Real Madrid and the majority of its players without authorisation and that they often used photographs and drawings of these footballers wearing the kit and badge of Real Madrid.

In most countries, legislation rigorously protects the rights to the name and image of people and companies, it said.

No political motives in cuts says Command Secretary

TGWU accuse MoD of “threatening gesture”

TGWU has accused the Ministry of Defence of trying to muzzle the workforce in the current dispute over local contractorisation plans. Speaking to the Chronicle the Union declared that the posting of armed GSP personnel at key points around Gibraltar including car-searches in the area of Chilton Court yesterday, could be interpreted as a “threatening gesture by the MoD.”

Meanwhile, Phil Mallion, Command Secretary, has stated categorically that there are no political motives behind the MoD job privatisation decision. He said so during an interview with GBC on Friday in which he was asked if the move had been in response to the rejection of joint sovereignty.

This is a question of economics. I have been aware of the conspiracy theories as they develop during the week. It is frustrating. This is an MoD economic decision in pursuance of best values for money. It needs to review its services, he said.

The loyalty of Gibraltar to MoD is undeniable but that cannot mean for MoD that we cannot look at our support services and functions and do what we need to improve our value for money. MoD is about defence and it needs to focus on its core services and its core business. Things that it needs to do and is good at doing.

The Command secretary said that for decades the MoD had been looking at contractorising non-core services and getting people to provide what they do well and that the MoD does not do well.

Mr Mallion also revealed that those sections identified for transfer will not be able to opt for an early retirement package although this might be available to some of those people who remain in MoD. Money had been identified for this purpose, he said. That would be looked at next year and MoD would be prepared to talk to the union about early exit packages.

He admitted that the changes planned affect 30% of the workforce and are significant so they were entitled to feel concerned.

We understand that concern which is why it is so important for us to work with the staff and the trade unions to ensure they are clear as to what is happening to them and they understand the implications, he said.

Mr Mallion said it was important that their rights are protected in the transfer to a contractor. He rejected the suggestions that MoD was unwilling to talk to the unions and said that CBF had had two meetings and that the door is open.

The door swings both ways,” he said but he stressed that MoD stands by its decision on the 300 jobs. “We need to talk to the unions about the implications of that change to the staff.

On the advice to personnel to be cautious Mr Mallion said he recognised that this is an emotional issue.

Quite clearly the leaking is unfortunate and the wording may have been unfortunate. The MoD acts in a uniform way to areas and incidents where there might be a volatile reaction. CBF has a duty to see that we minimise the opportunity for confrontation. It is a preventative measure.

TGWU Factions ‘bury the hatchet’

Nursing section dispute - TGWU yesterday announced that the “unfortunate” discrepancies that existed between the Union leadership and the caretaker Nursing Section committee have been resolved and that any further differences will be discussed internally.

In a statement the Union said they had now agreed to resume talks with the Gibraltar Health Authority management on the pending claims issue, “in order to find a satisfactory solution.”

A TGWU spokesman said:

Branch Officer Charles Sisarello and District Chairman John Cabezutto met Michael Netto and the rest of the committee, and both sides agreed the negative effect that the public airing of our disagreements was having on the members. We have now agreed to discuss any further differences within the organisation.

The role of the TGWU officers and that of the Nursing Committee have been clearly defined. When we have concrete proposals and having reached a stage of no progress in the negotiations, we will meet with the members affected for a decision on the matter.

Once this situation has been clarified we look forward to the future with the hope of establishing the need that the Union has to speak with one voice. We regret any inconvenience caused to the Union membership during this unfortunate episode and will shortly be announcing an election for a new Nursing Section Committee.

Spanish workers react to MoD

Spanish workers in Gibraltar have declared that they are not prepared to “beg for jobs in third world conditions.”

The statement by their representative body ASCTEG came in response by declarations by the Chief Minister that contractorised jobs from MoD may go to Spanish workers.

A spokesman said that Spanish workers come to Gibraltar out of necessity and would rather be employed at home. They said that in some cases Social Security is so much better in Spain that some prefer to be on the dole there. But the group said that Social Insurance contributions on the Rock are, in turn, considerably higher.

On the remark that the work might go to Spanish workers the spokesman also said that it would make more sense for MoD to employ the cheapest labour on the market – Bulgarians, Rumanians and Portugese on short contracts.

Montegriffo criticises "unacceptable" delays in waiting list for specialist

Gibraltar Health Authority hitch

GSLP/Libs has accused the Gibraltar Government of failing to take appropriate action to prevent the passing on of many of the problems that affected the old hospital to the new St Bernard’s complex at Europort.

In a statement issued yesterday Opposition spokeswoman for Health Mari Montegriffo drew attention to the “totally unacceptable” case of an elderly person who was told she would have to wait between 12 and 18 months before seeing a specialist. Ms Montegriffo said:

We have been approached by the relatives of an elderly patient, who wish us to make the case public. Their mother was admitted to hospital on December 23 last, as she could hardly walk. After a series of tests, the family were informed that her problem would have to be seen to by an Orthopaedic Specialist. However, she was discharged and subsequently had to go to the Primary Care Centre, to be referred to such a Specialist.

A GP then wrote a letter of referral to the Gibraltar Health Authority and recently the patient received a card by post from the Hospital Outpatients Department confirming that the referral letter from her GP at the Primary Care Centre to see the Orthopaedic Surgeon had been received. It goes on to say that the waiting time is “between 12 and 18 months”, and therefore she would be receiving “an appointment nearer to the date of her appointment.

We have been constantly asking the Government in the House of Assembly to provide us with the waiting list both for out-patients and in-patients. The lists, especially in Orthopaedics have been extremely high. In the last meeting in December 2004, we were informed that for out-patients there are two weeks for cases requiring attention soon, and seven months for routine cases. Clearly the list has not only increased, but during all of these past years, the Government has not taken heed of our warnings, and have done nothing to reverse the situation. That the Government should be telling us that they intend to employ more medical practitioners is not good enough. What we need is less promises and quicker action.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bossano backs Unions in fight to stop defence cuts

MoD privatisation row - Gibraltar operates by local rule book not UK, says GSLP leader

F Oliva reports

Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano has warned the Ministry of Defence to make a tactical withdrawal from its current position “instead of being defeated in public which is what will happen to them.”

Speaking at a press conference in the party offices, Mr Bossano was in confident mood and said the GSLP/Libs will be politically supporting the Unions for as long as they fight the contractorisation agenda.

Mr Bossano who was joined by representatives of the Gibraltar Trades Council, also accused the MoD of acting in a take it or leave it manner that was “unnecessarily brusque and insulting”.

The GSLP/Libs leader stated that policy decisions such as the one taken by the British Government can be altered, and expressed a message of confidence that this dispute can be won.

“The MoD ought to have learned from their experience that we are a hard nut to crack,” he declared.

Mr Bossano, a former leading trade unionist, was also asked to comment on the political implications for the continued existence of a military base in Gibraltar, following TGWU remarks that they would not accept a military base without jobs. He adopted a more cautious approach and said that the Ministry of Defence should be in Gibraltar on the basis that they employ direct labour and not through contractors.

Mr Bossano further stated that there was a big step between this and telling them to get out, and noted that the MoD themselves could suggest this unless they were permitted to do what they want. He further explained that their position was that Gibraltar is a separate country to UK, that Gibraltar is the host and the MoD have to operate by our rules not by theirs. In Britain, he continued, these rules are drawn up by British politicians and British electorate, while in Gibraltar it is the local politicians and electorate that determine the rules. Mr Bossano was firm on this point and stated that if the MoD could not live by the local rule book, “it was a matter for them.”

The Leader of the Opposition said the manner in which the MoD has gone about this announcement, and from their previous dealings with the Union, showed that they were under no illusions of what the Union reaction would be. Mr Bossano said that if the MoD had sought an agreement to transfer the workforce to a contractor without guarantees, “the Union would have told them what to do with it.”

Mr Bossano argued that there was no precedent for the MoD decision since they were saying that they still needed the work done but at a cheaper price, having the same workforce employed by someone else with worse conditions. He said this was also open to interpretation since it could be suggested that it was an admission by the MoD that the problem was one of “lousy management” that needed to be changed.

In reply to questions, Mr Bossano said there were parallels with the dockyard closure of 1984 and that there were already signs of what was coming in the Defence White Paper of 1980 where the reduction in military presence was already set out.

‘Similarities with Joint Sovereignty Deal’

There are similarities between the MoD dispute and the Joint Sovereignty proposals of 2002 even in the language used by Chief Minister Peter Caruana who referred to the contractorisation decision as “a done deal”, said Mr Bossano in answer to questions. Continuing with the analogy, Mr Bossano argued that what Mr Caruana objected to was the done deal, while he was opposed to the joint sovereignty deal.

I will still have rejected it if 99% of the population had been in favour, just as I would be against the contractorisation even if the Union had supported it.

The Leader of the Opposition also stated that the contractorisation would be de-railed and that this was both “realistic and attainable.”

Mr Bossano also hypothesised on what could happen in the future if the contractorisation process went ahead, and warned that the military base ‘red-line’ could then be uprooted since it was far easier for contractors to be “switched off.”

Mr Bossano added that in such hypothetical circumstances the GSLP/Libs would continue to support the Gibraltar Regiment and arrive at a situation where it could become necessary to re-draft the constitution and assume responsibilities for defence as well.

Responding to questions from GBC (Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation) whether the contractorisation could be interpreted as pay-back time for the rejection of the 2002 joint sovereignty deal, Mr Bossano gave an open reply but noted that the Spanish expectation was that some day in the future in the right climate it could advance its position, but remarked that Spain would first of all have to get its act together, in reference to the public disagreements expressed between the Mancomunidad and the Junta de Andalucia, on the scope of agreements with the Gibraltar Government.

As regards Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, Mr Bossano said that having been such a welcome figure in Gibraltar for breaking ranks with the Blair Government at the time of the joint sovereignty deal, he was now “on course for competing for the kind of treatment we gave Peter Hain and Secretary of State for Foriegn & Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw when they came here.”
The Opposition met with the Commander British Forces yesterday morning to learn first hand from him what is planned and to make clear its own position.
“There is already an avalanche of outside workers who dominate many parts of the private sector. The only area of employment where the workforce is almost 100% local and where there is long-term security of employment is in the public sector and Government owned companies,” said the Opposition adding that it considers that the only option open to the Unions from day one has been either to capitulate to this imposition and seek to negotiate better terms or to reject it outright and prevent the contractor from taking over come 1st January 2006. The Unions have clearly embarked on the second course and this therefore raises political questions and well as matters of industrial relations, said the GSLP/Libs.

The Opposition are of the view that if the principle is conceded now then it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the MoD jobs go the same way as the first 300.
At yesterday morning’s meeting the MoD confirmed to them that it was going into this with their eyes open but had no room for manoeuvre, the decision has been taken in London and all the consequences factored in.
The Opposition said it believes that the one consequence that has not been factored in is that we have the ability to prevent the ISP contract from being fulfilled and that is “what can and must be done.”
“The UK Government would do better to retreat at this stage with some dignity instead of having to be made to retreat on this one as they were on the Brussels Sovereignty negotiations.”

Labour Party warning on culture of “hire and fire”

Local Labour Party yesterday told the Gibraltar Trades Council that the MoD workforce could count with their unconditional support in the dispute over contractorisation.

A spokesman said:

“This will result in a hire and fire culture giving instability to the local workforce and labour market. This culture will also allow the contractors to employ foreign labour as they please on less than favourable conditions with the consequent squeeze on local labour. The loss of jobs are also a blow to the Gibraltar economy at a time when there is increasing pressure on our finance centre from the European Union and Spain. It is regrettable given the consequences for Gibraltar, that there has been no prior consultation with the Unions or the workforce. The UK Government has a political obligation to Gibraltar that goes beyond that of a good employer. It is not honouring that obligation”.

Bossano defends culture of “job for life”

Joe Bossano yesterday made an impassioned defence of the need to fight for and protect the culture of “the job for life,” and called on the Unions to persist in their defence of this concept “because it is good for their members.”

Mr Bossano said that job insecurity in Gibraltar was increasing and undermining the above. The MoD contractorisation, he continued, was not about the impact to the economy which he believed could absorb this, but how it would affect the people concerned and additionally, how jobs were being lost in one of the only two areas of employment locally – the other being the Gibraltar Government – where you could find guarantees of conditions and security of employment.

He said the MoD crisis was a “massive blow” in terms of an area where the Gibraltarian composition of the workforce (90%) was predominant.

He also described as astronomical the proportion of 5,000 private sector jobs in the economy, where the job for life does not exist and outsiders accounted for 60% of the jobs, in relation to the 9,000 in the public sector.

Mr Bossano added that the British Government was getting away with worse things in UK and it was becoming “increasingly difficult to distinguish Tory Policy from new Labour policy.”

TGWU/ACTS & Prospect Team to defy ‘fait accompli’

Leaders of the main unions TGWU/ACTS and Prospect have joined their forces as one against the MoD decision to privatise jobs and have written to Allan Adair, Commander British Forces to put him on notice.

Union sources made clear to the Chronicle yesterday that they are now in a state of dispute with MoD. And there are plans to gradually escalate within a strategy likely to start with a mass demonstration and petitions.

However, activists have vowed that they will not – whatever the upshot - allow contractors to be brought in from outside putting at risk the local jobs.

In their letter to the CBF the unions state:

The Trade Unions now officially inform you that due to the recent announcement made by the Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, on Thursday 10th February 2005, to the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana QC, the Trade Unions can no longer sit at a forum specifically designed in the UK for consultation and adopted in Gibraltar, when the MoD has used a “fait accompli” and ignored both National and Local consultative procedures.

For the past 2 weeks, the Trade Unions have conveyed to you, that we have an open door to dialogue. Command has taken the stance of not walking through that door.

Meanwhile, some sectors are already taking limited action. The Defence Fire services continue to be on standby for emergencies but are refusing to carry out non-essential tasks.

PSOE-PP row over Gibraltar continues

Members of Spanish Government and Opposition continue to row over the current Gibraltar tripartite talks process.

In debate in the Andalucian parliament PSOE spokesman Gaspar Zarrias expressed full support for the central government’s policy on talks. He highlighted the fact that the finance centre in Gibraltar is to lose “unfair advantages” by 2010. He also said that co-operation will help eliminate old prejudices.

But PP spokesman Antonio Sanz decried as an historical reverse and “humiliation” the setting up of tripartite talks where Gibraltar has a veto. He said that this also puts in question the resolutions at the UN.

In a heated contribution he went on to accuse the PSOE of mollycoddling Gibraltarians at the expense of the people of the Campo and declared this to be “an historic error”.

Sr Zarrias retorted that the PSOE had not given up on one iota of sovereignty but he said that dialgue would triumph for the benefit of citizens on both sides of the border. He also claimed that unlike the PP the PSOE had succeeded in dismantling the “tax haven”.

The joke and humiliation for Spain he said had been Aznar who had “crawled before Bush” and had now “been sent home where he belongs.”

GibTelecom donates big screens for young patients

The children’s Rainbow Ward at the new St Bernard’s Hospital has been presented with two 42 inch wide-screen plasma televisions by Gibtelecom.

This follows on from the Company having donated 68 telephones to the Elderly Care Agency at Mount Alvernia and a further 220 to be used in the new hospital as bedside phones. The presentation was attended by Rahul Saxena, a Director of Gibtelecom and Vice President (Europe) for Verizon Communications, which part-owns Gibtelecom along with the Government of Gibraltar.

The two locally-bought giant televisions were officially presented to Sister Mary Sene of Rainbow Ward and young Amy Cataña (representing the young patients) by Fabian Vinet
in his capacity as Chairman of Gibtelecom.

Commenting that he spoke from experience having himself been a hospital patient as a child, albeit at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, he said that it was always important to try and make a patient’s stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible, but that this was particularly important when dealing with children. Mr Vinet added that the staff already perform a wonderful job but that the two new televisions would hopefully make children’s stay that little bit more bearable. Earlier he had commented that this was another opportunity for Gibtelecom to give something back to the community.

Also attending the presentation were Minister for Health, Ernest Britto, a former Chairman of Gibtelecom; the new Chief Executive of the GHA Dr. McCutcheon; Managing Director of Gibtelecom, Charles Fortunato and Customer Services Manager, Peter Borge.

Gibtelecom, who provided the cabling, phone system, data equipment and network at the hospital, laid a total of 150km of copper wire and 10km of fibre cable during their work.

Traffic Information

In order to allow a contractor to lift heavy components onto the roof of Leanse Place, the area in front of Leanse Place at the southern end of Town Range, will be closed to traffic as from 10am on Sunday for a maximum of six hours.

Traffic wishing to access the upper town area, including bus route No 2, will be diverted via Trafalgar interchange onto Prince Edward’s Road. Access to St Jago’s parking and Leanse Place garage, will be via Hargraves, which will be made two-way whilst the works are in progress.

Drivers are urged to take extra caution whilst travelling from Hargraves to St Jago’s or Leanse Place. Traffic signs will be used accordingly to advise drivers.

Due to the refurbishment works currently being undertaken at Loreto Convent School, the north bound traffic lane will be narrowed by one metre as from Monday 28 February 2005 for two weeks. Traffic flow will continue to flow as normal but will be managed with priority signs due to the narrowing of the road. Drivers are requested to drive with care along this section of Europa Road.

5,000 Signatures and counting in opposition to Funicular

The signature collection campaign conducted by the Joint Platform (ESG, Gibraltar Heritage Trust & GONHS) in opposition to the proposed Funicular project has so far been resoundingly successful, its organisers said yesterday.

They said that a very large majority of people approached so far have shown themselves to be against this potentially disastrous project, and well in excess of 5,000 signatures have been collected to the present.

“This clearly demonstrates the magnitude of opposition to the Funicular amongst Gibraltarians. Our campaign to demonstrate the very obvious overall public rejection of the Funicular will continue for as long as the project proposal remains on the table.

Since a large percentage of the population has not yet been approached and most housing estates have still to be visited, we are confident that our final result will comfortably exceed an overall electoral majority,” they said urging support.


Meanwhile their campaign around housing estates and around the town centre will continue.

RG Soldier wins Recruiting Award

Colour Sergeant Winston Payas of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment recently attended a Regular Recruiters Course at the joint Royal Naval and Army Schools of Recruiting. On completion of the course he was awarded the Whistler Shield.

This is an award given by the Army School of Recruiting to the student assessed as having made the greatest improvement over the duration of the course.

The Chief Instructor of the Army School of Recruiting said, “He is to be congratulated on achieving a good pass on what is a very hard course, especially given his previous unfamiliarity with the recruiting system. He is more than capable of taking his place in any recruiting office in the country and has loads of ideas for new approaches to recruiting on the Rock. He has been an excellent ambassador for the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.”

Colour Sergeant Payas will now move on from his previous appointment in HQ Company (Thompson’s Battery) and take up a new job as the Regiment’s recruiting Senior NCO, where he will spearhead the Regiment’s latest recruiting drive.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Caruana pledges full support for Union campaign against MoD “done deal”

Gibraltar Government joins defence privatisation row - Plan is regressive for Gibraltar – Chief Minister Peter Caruana

Chief Minister Peter Caruana yesterday declared that the MoD's announced contractorisation plans are "unacceptable" and will be opposed by the Gibraltar Government.

Speaking at a press conference at Convent Place, Mr Caruana said they were severely damaging to the Rock, economically and socially and further described them as "excessive and disproportionate."

"The Government will take all steps that it lawfully and reasonably can to impede and counteract this regressive plan for Gibraltar," said the Chief Minister while pledging his full support for the trade union opposition to the MoD contractorisation.

Mr Caruana also announced a series of legislative and fiscal measures with significant financial impact on potential contractors, and designed to "minimise the social impact in Gibraltar of the MoD's job loss plans should these go ahead in their present form."

In a hard hitting statement Mr Caruana accused the Ministry of Defence of seeking to impose its 'done-deal' "unilaterally" without prior negotiations with the Unions, and acting "in a cavalier fashion." He also said the MoD were using the term 'efficiency savings' as "a deception, a mere mask for saving money at the expense of valuable jobs and conditions of employment."

Mr Caruana also called on all sectors of the community to unite in their backing of the workers and trade unions affected, and stated that in a frontier economy there is a grave risk that jobs in the military base presently held by locals "will be lost and replaced by jobs for non-residents."

The Chief Minister also noted the loss of employment opportunities for young people as a result of the MoD cuts, and how these translate into loss of PAYE revenue for the Government and probably increased expenditure in social assistance payments.

Meanwhile Mr Caruana formally called on the MoD to engage the Unions in meaningful and sincere negotiations to achieve "a reasonable degree of real efficiency improvements." He added:

While the Government accepts that Gibraltar cannot be exempted from cutbacks that affect the whole MoD around the world and in the UK, the plans for Gibraltar are excessive and disproportionate and represent more than our share of the pain.

Gibraltar not Basra or Kosovo, says Caruana

Gibraltar is not Basra or Kosovo, and it is deeply regrettable that anyone in the MoD should consider it necessary to warn personnel not to walk around in uniform because they could incur bodily harm.

Mr Caruana said it was unfortunate and that this was the first time in 300 years that a memo with such contents had been circulated.

Responding to other questions, Mr Caruana said that the Gibraltar Government was not at the stage of seeking a financial package from the British Government along the lines of the dockyard closure, because this would be on the presumption that the MoD would implement its plan. Mr Caruana said the Gibraltar Government will be initiating a political lobbying campaign to stop this. He also warned against the job precariousness that contractorisation would bring about, and that a good employer could not expect to shirk its responsibilities to the workforce.

Asked about the political significance of the move, Mr Caruana added that the less well the MoD treat their employees, more people will say 'what's in it for Gibraltar.' However he did not think it would have political implications and that this was a case of a workforce defending their "human right" to withdraw its labour to protect its employment and not allowing the MoD to do as they please.

MoD: Contractorisation and job cut announcement

Full Statement by Chief Minister Peter Caruana

On the 10th February 2005, Mr Adam Ingram the Armed Forces Minister, met the Chief Minister during his visit to Gibraltar. Mr Ingram outlined MoD's reorganisation plans in Gibraltar.

On 14th February the Chief Minister met union officials to brief them on what he had been told by Mr Ingram. On the same day the Government issued a public statement saying that a full statement would be issued by Government after MoD had briefed the unions and the unions and government had met. This has now occurred.

In that statement the Government also expressed its firm opposition to the contractorisation plan and the direct or indirect exportation of local MOD jobs.
The MOD's announced plans are severely damaging to Gibraltar, economically and socially. They are thus unacceptable to the Government which is committed to opposing those plans and to take such appropriate measures as it can to impede the plan and to minimise their economic and social impact, if they are put into effect in the form and in the high handed manner announced by the MOD.

The MoD's Plan

The MOD has simply announced its intentions as a "fait accompli" or "done deal". The MOD has just over 1000 civilian employees in Gibraltar. The MOD's plans envisage the contractorisation of about 600 out of the 1000 jobs, followed by the loss of an unknown number of those 600 jobs by the contractors after the staff is transferred. About 300 jobs could be lost in this way. In addition the MOD plans an unspecified number of cuts in the remaining 400 jobs that would be left in the MOD.
There are several aspects of the MOD's plans, each of which should be separately understood.

1. The "Done Deal"

It is unacceptable that the MOD should simply announce a "fait accompli" without any prior consultation or negotiations with local trade unions. This is not an acceptable way for the MOD to do business in Gibraltar or anywhere else. The Government has no doubt that the MOD would not behave in this cavalier fashion in the UK. Accordingly, the Government formally calls on the MOD to abandon its plan to unilaterally try to impose these measures, and instead to engage local trade unions in a meaningful and sincere negotiation to achieve a reasonable degree of real "efficiency improvements" in a negotiated, agreed and acceptable manner.

Whilst the Government accepts that Gibraltar cannot be exempted from cutbacks that affect the whole MOD around the world and in the UK, the plans for Gibraltar are excessive and disproportionate and represent more than our share of the pain.
Regardless of any issue of contractorisation or job losses, the presentation of this 'fait accompli', without negotiation, is unacceptable and by itself justifies that all sectors of the community in Gibraltar should unite in support of the workers and trade unions affected. The Government has informed Trade Unions of its full support for their opposition to the plans.

2. Contractorisation

Contractorisation is only capable of saving money by reducing the number of employees and by replacing a directly employed labour force enjoying good pay, pensions, job security and terms and conditions of employment, with private sector contractors, sub-contractors and sub-sub contractors, who will engage fewer workers and give their employees less job security, inferior (if any) pensions, and poor pay and other conditions.

The phrase "efficiency savings" or "efficiency improvement" is thus a deception, a mere mask for saving money at the expense of the destruction of economically and socially valuable jobs and hard won conditions of employment.

A genuine policy of "efficiency improvement" would seek to get higher productivity and efficiency from the labour force without destroying the quality of the employment terms. But what the MOD appear to mean by it is to get fewer people, on cheaper terms of employment, to do the same work as is being done now, so that the MOD can spend the resulting savings on ships, aircraft and tanks. This is not "efficiency savings". It is getting workers to contribute to the cost of military expenditure.

Furthermore, in a frontier economy like Gibraltar, contractors and subcontractors will seek to maximise their profits by engaging the cheapest and most 'hireable and fireable' labour. This will inevitably be found in Spain. There is therefore a grave risk that jobs in the military base presently held by locals will be lost and replaced by jobs for non-residents. This would be richly ironical given our support for the military base and Spain's opposition to its very existence.

Indeed, the MOD makes no secret of this. The briefing paper submitted to the Chief Minister states as follows:-

HMG are fully aware of the implications these measures will have for the Gibraltar economy and the effect they will have on future employment especially for the blue collar constituency. Scope for re-employment will be limited and it is likely on cost grounds that some of the new employees to be recruited by the contractor in due course would be from across the border in Spain.

The MOD's plans include the contractorisation of functions representing about 600 of its present labour force of just over 1000, i.e. these 600 jobs will be lost in the MOD and transferred to private contractors.

3. Job Losses

But the destruction of pay, pensions, job security and conditions of employment and possible exportation of jobs through contractorisation is not the only issue that arises. There is also the separate issue of reduction in the number of jobs.
The MOD makes no secret of the fact that it expects that, after contractorisation, the contractor will then make people redundant and cut jobs. The MOD calls this "subsequent job losses through further contractor efficencies."

The MOD has not said how many (of the by then degraded) jobs will go in this way. The figure of 300 out of the 600 to be contractorised has been mentioned. The MOD plans to leave this decision to the contractors, upon which their profit from the contracts will ultimately depend.

The Government calls on the MOD to state clearly and categorically how many of these 600 or so jobs it is willing to allow its contractors to destroy in the name of so-called "efficiency improvements".

Nor is the contractor the only source of intended job losses. The MOD itself intends to reduce what will remain (400 jobs) of its directly employed labour. Again the MOD has not said how many of the remaining 400 MOD jobs it envisages will be lost. The Government calls on the MOD to do so.

It is clear that all 1000 jobs are affected either by contractorisation or threat of job loss. It is not clear whether any jobs will be lost by compulsory redundancy. However, regardless of whether the redundancy is voluntary and regardless of the level of compensation paid to the present holders of the job, it has to be remembered that that job is then lost forever. This greatly reduces employment opportunities for young people and job seekers in Gibraltar. It also translates into loss of PAYE revenue for the Government and (probably) increased expenditure in social assistance payments. The lasting economic and social effects of these jobs cuts extends far and long beyond the consequences for the present holders of the jobs, serious as the latter will be.

4. Government seeks clarification

The Government will oppose the MOD's plans and will take all steps that it lawfully and reasonably can to impede and counteract this plan which is economically and socially regressive for Gibraltar as a whole. In the meantime, the Government has sought clarification from the MOD about several aspects of its intentions, for example: -

-how many jobs will it allow the contractor to destroy?
-how many of the remaining direct MOD jobs will it seek to cut?
-what pension scheme will MOD demand that its contractors provides to its workforce?
-what steps will MOD take to ensure that its contractor is able to pay its creditors, taxes, redundancy payment liabilities etc?
-what steps will MOD take to ensure that local jobs are not exported?
It will not be acceptable for the MOD to wash its hands of these issues and to say that they are up to the contractor. That would be totally reckless and irresponsible, since the MOD is free to impose requirements in any tender.

5. Caution to potential contractors

The Government understands that MOD will seek fixed price commitments and schedules of rates from any successful contractor in manner that any unexpected cost increase is to be borne by the contractor. Companies considering bidding for the MOD Infrastructure Support Provider contract should therefore bear in mind when formulating their contract bids that the Government will be considering a range of legislative and fiscal measures designed to minimise the social and economic impact in Gibraltar of MOD's contractorisation and job loss plans should these go ahead in their present form, and without negotiations and agreement, and that these legislative and fiscal measures may have a significant financial impact on any contractor.

Tripartite talks will continue – Moratinos

Junta - Campo row over protocols talks - Open agenda tripartite talks will continue but without losing sight of Spain's aim of recovering the sovereignty over Gibraltar.

This was stated by Miguel Angel Moratinos in the Spanish senate. He said that a group is being set up to study the technicalities and conditions that could allow agreement on use of the airport.

Sr Moratinos reiterated Spain's objections to the HMS Sceptre repairs visit.
Meanwhile, the Junta de Andalucia and the Campo authorities have fallen out over who is the competent party to agree emergency procedures and protocols with Gibraltar. The debate erupted as Junta chiefs questioned the legality of the plans for an agreement on such issues announced following the meeting between Peter Caruana, Chief Minister and Mancomunidad president Juan Montedeoca. This meeting, however, is one of a series supported by the Madrid Government.

Nonetheless Jose Antonio Gomez Perinan has said that the Junta is not prepared to abandon its responsibilities on these issues. The row revives initial demands from the Junta for involvement in the process.

Responding to these statements Sr Montedeoca has said that he sees no contradictions in what is happening and says that the forum of dialogue has not yet established who will carry out any particular responsibility. Instead the talks are aimed at encouraging dialogue with Gibraltar.

"If there are two neighbouring regions they should have procedures in place as soon as possible. To date any incident has had to be passed through London and Madrid."

Francisco Gonzalez Cabana, Diputación Provincial de Cádiz president joined in the debate saying that the Junta presence is missing from the talks and said that it was not good to discuss issues that are the competence of the Junta without the Junta being present.

In La Linea the Mayor, Juan Carlos Juarez said that whilst it was true that the commission set up to discuss issues affecting the Campo and Gibraltar should apply more rigour in consulting relevant administrative bodies the Junta had, he said, no need to rush in and derail talks that are beneficial to both sides. He said that the Junta had commented in a precipitated manner and reiterated the benefit of having a joint plan for emergencies on either side.

"The Junta would do better to complete the epidemiological study that it promised and was asked for long ago," he said referring to growing concerns that the region may suffer a higher cancer level than is the norm.

Meanwhile Rafael Espana, the Junta representative in the Campo said that the Junta has already set in motion an epidemiological study which, he adds, is not a mere poll but a very detailed study.

According to a study recently completed by the Consejeria de Salud for Andalusia the Campo area is not different to any other regions. But Spanish officials nonetheless say they are aware of sensitivity in the Campo to this issue.

Verdemar and Campo ecologists have welcomed the plans for a study so long as this is transparent and looks at all areas including the Campo industries and the Gibraltar military base.

UK caves in over Finance Centre, says MEP

Neil Parish MEP for the South West and Gibraltar has accused the UK Government of caving in to the European Commission over the tax exempt company regime in Gibraltar.

I am very disappointed that the government has capitulated under pressure from the European Commission. Again Gibraltarians interests have not been looked after. Nearly 40% of Gibraltar's income comes from the financial services sector yet the Labour Government seem intent on ruining their income," he said.

The GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) has been invited to attend a one day conference organised by the South West Region of the Labour Party, which is taking place in Bristol on Saturday 26th February 2005. Lucio Randall, the Opposition spokesman for Traffic, Telecommunications and Government Services will be representing the GSLP at the conference. The theme of the conference is 'Politics for a Third Term'. Lucio Randall will take part in the Workshop that will be chaired by Glyn Ford MEP on 'European Forum'. Dawn Primarolo, the Chairperson of the Primarolo Group in the EU who dealt with the subject of Exempt Companies, and Jack Dromey, the Deputy General Secretary of the TGWU, will also be attending the conference.

Garcia insists Government undersold mid-town land

Dr Joseph Garcia, Opposition, has hit back at Government saying their attack on him over his views on the Mid-Town project completely vindicates the accusation he made in the first place that they have undersold the site.

The rest of the Government statement is nothing more than a cheap and transparent attempt to confuse and mislead public opinion," he said "welcoming the fact that as a result of our statement, it has now been revealed that 7600 square metres is the area of land that will be made available to the developer and that this land has been sold for £66 a square metre more than the figure quoted by us as paid for a development in the vicinity.

Rather than this undermining the calculations, it shows how accurate they are, he said.

Dr Garcia had quoted a case where a developer paid £1250 a square metre for private land as illustrative of the value of land in the vicinity of the Mid-Town project.

The Government is clearly not aware that when I mentioned the £1250 a square metre paid for private land, this was actually for a one storey development, said Dr Garcia.

Government, said Dr Garcia, have said that development land is not valued on the basis of its area, but rather on the basis of the density of the construction, which is the number of floors that can be put in a particular area of land. In that event, the land has been grossly undervalued by the Government given that one of the two towers that is going to be built on this land is about thirty floors high and therefore the floor area in the construction is many times the 7600 square metres of the site, he said.

"According to the Government's own criteria of value by density and a rate per square metre on the construction of the two towers, the value of the site should have been even greater than what the Opposition suggested. In other words, the value of the site is even more using the density valuation preferred by the Government than it was with the area valuation used by the Opposition. This means that they have undersold the site by even more," he said adding that Minister for Trade and Industry Joe Holliday did not have a clue about the valuation formula used by his own Government.

It is obvious that the Government do not know what they are talking about. They have also been very silent on the other issues raised. The first is the lack of an updated Gibraltar Development Plan, the last one of which dates back to 1991. The second issue is the scale of the project and its heritage and environmental implications. Thirdly the Government have said nothing of their long standing policy priority for luxury housing for outsiders over low-cost accommodation for Gibraltarians. These are the issues that they are trying to cover up, said Dr Garcia.

Gay Group writes to EU Commission

Equality Rights organisation Gibraltar Gay Rights (GGR) has written to the European Commission regarding last year's introduction of the Equal Opportunities Ordinance.

Felix Alvarez, Chairman said:

We are not satisfied that the language of the Ordinance meets the requirements of the EU Directive. For this reason we have been scrutinising the precise wording of the Gibraltar law to evaluate whether it satisfies the terms of the EU's legislation, working closely with experts in the field and are pleased that the UK Chapter of the EU's publication of a "Report of the European Group of Experts on Combating Sexual Orientation Discrimination" incorporates that analysis of where the Gibraltar law is deficient.

There are six separate areas of interest in the Gibraltar law which are outlined by the experts as requiring amendment to satisfy the EU. I have sent a copy of the recommendations for change to the Chief Minister and written to the Commission.

It is important to remind all working people that there is now a law in place in Gibraltar which makes it illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace on several grounds - including sexual orientation. If you are facing discrimination-related problems at work you should take up your rights. You will find that GGR will be more than happy to assist you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

MoD Memo braced Staff for hostile strike action

The extent to which MoD is expecting a reaction to the current cuts plans emerged yesterday when GBC revealed a document that had been circulated to service personnel and UK staff and warned them to avoid confrontation. Malcolm Croft, Chief of Staff, issued a letter which gave advice as to how to act during any strike action.

In it he is quoted as saying that uniformed personnel must stick to the local command's adopted line that the MoD remains committed to Gibraltar but he adds that this does not mean there won't be changes. Personnel are advised not to be seen in uniform outside the MoD estate and to avoid socialising in areas frequented by locally employed personnel. Nor should they get into arguments with disgruntled staff nor be provocative.

Responding to the news bulletin the MoD issued a statement saying that the Chief of Staff's guidance note needs to be understood and put in the context of the expected opposition from the trades unions to the MoD's announcement about ISP contractorisation. It should also be noted that distribution of guidance of this type is normal procedure in these types of circumstances.

I hope that the Trades Unions understand both the MoD's strong commitment to retaining its present level of military output in Gibraltar and the absolute requirement to ensure that these operations are cost effective. Despite this, there may be individuals in Gibraltar determined to oppose these new support arrangements.

I am keen that we avoid any unnecessary provocation in the eyes of such people. That is the objective of the Chief of Staff's guidance note. It simply conveys preventative measures with the aim of ensuring that peaceful protest remains just that and that the opportunity for confrontation is minimised. It in no way should be read as implying that I or my senior staff believe that there is a threat from Gibraltar's civilian population directed against British military personnel in Gibraltar, a substantial number of whom are anyway Gibraltarian.

says Alan Adair, the Commander British Forces.

I, and the MoD greatly value the support which Gibraltar and its people have traditionally extended to the British military. The Royal Navy continues to view Gibraltar as a 'home port'. I am confident that I will be able to count on this support from the Gibraltarians in the future and look forward to doing so," he said.

Union declare all out 'battle against MoD Privatisation move

TGWU link support for base to jobs - Sisarello declares “industrial unrest”

Gibraltar's trade unions have said that they will be implementing a policy of confrontation and industrial unrest, to counter the "totally unacceptable" decision by the Ministry of Defence to privatise 300 local jobs. In a statement to the Chronicle yesterday TGWU Branch Officer Charles Sisarello said the Unions were angry and "will fight this battle to the end," because there are "hundreds of jobs at stake and cannot accept a situation that affects MoD employees and has repercussions for the local economy in indirect employment and other areas."

This will mean a drastic change in the political situation as regards the military presence in Gibraltar," said the Union spokesman.

Mr Sisarello also revealed that the Unions (TGWU/ACTS and Prospect) will be seeking the full support of the Gibraltar Trades Council, the local Government, Opposition, Chamber of Commerce and other political and social organisations on the Rock.

Our struggle will be undertaken at both a trade union and political level. We will be supporting our members in industrial unrest and also working together with all political parties for the same objective," he declared.

Mr Sisarello further stated that people in Gibraltar have always been supportive of the military presence including visits and repairs to nuclear submarines for one reason - "1,000 jobs available for local families," but this was now changing to "a military base with no jobs," that, say the Union, "will have an impact in the minds of the local population."

Mr Sisarello continued: "We are in a situation where the MoD is not saying that there is no work available in the military base, but that the work available will be undertaken by outsourcing and not necessarily by the local workforce." He added:

The UK Government has rejected the understanding reached between the local management and the Unions regarding budgetary measures outlined last year and how this could be achieved without the need to privatise services. The UK Government proposals are a done deal with no room to manoeuvre for the Unions, since consultation and negotiations are not available.

Gibraltar's post-colonial history celebrated

Edinburgh Estate

Jaime Netto, Housing Minister, brushed aside party politics and saw Gibraltar's sense of history taking a post-colonial leap yesterday as the buildings in the Edinburgh Estate were named after 17 leading Gibraltarians of the last century. Journalists, artists, trade unionists, figures from every walk of life were chosen to give their names to homes formerly only known by their military numeration.

It was an emotional scene as the family and friends of those honoured gathered at the entrance porch of the estate where individual plaques with short biographies have been placed and where, after a blessing from the Bishop Charles Caruana, Mr Netto formally unveiled a commemorative plaque. The names, some recent, some perhaps forgotten until now, signal a reflection on Gibraltarians achievement.

At the City Hall Chief Minister Peter Caruana presented each member of the families with a special memento of the day, a crystal model of the Rock with the name of the family member honoured in the naming of the estate. Mr Caruana praised the work and special interest of the office of the Housing Minister and of Mr Netto himself.

He described the naming of the estate as a monument to "so many Gibraltarian forefathers who have contributed to the richness of our culture and heritage. I think that recognition is due to Jaime for his dedication to the principle and concept, the project and the idea are his, and it is true to say that this is the first estate which bears names which are relevant to us as a people in terms of our own civilian identity and culture, and the vision is his and he deserves recognition for it."

Recalling a predecessor, the late Robert Mor's words that housing ministers rarely enjoy the limelight of publicity but rather more often than not the burden of stress, Mr Netto paid tribute to the individuals who had made a long-lasting contribution to our future as a people and Gibraltar's heritage.

He described how the Government had been approached by tenants seeking to have names on their blocks rather than numbers and how this was also of practical benefit to the emergency services for locating residences. People who have a passion for local history had been called together to advise on names of people who had contributed to local civic history.

"In the past Governor's names, military names, ships and so on have been used. There is nothing wrong with that but these reflected our colonial past," said Mr Netto who noted that it was from 1815 on that the local population came to outnumber the military. We are redressing the balance," he said recognising that these persons were being given recognition now that they had not received in their lifetime. He saluted the enlightenment, talent and benefit they brought to the local community from all walks of life.

He also announced that the new Senior Citizens' building at the 'Sands' plot will be named 'Albert Risso House'. He paid tribute to Mr Risso's contribution to creating a welfare state from scratch for Gibraltarians "when standards were not so good." It was a happy occasion for the families. Pepi Holliday’s daughter of Rudecindo Mannia was chuffed. "He always said that people are not recognised in their lifetime. But at least I'm here and I know he would have been very pleased. And he is with friends, many, many friends," she said looking around the walls.

That sentiment was common to many of those there. Charles McCarthy was representing the family of Leni Mifsud.

"This is great and long overdue. It was a brilliant idea to commemorate local artists and people of Gibraltar. It should continue."

Marie Davis, wife of the late Sir Howard, said "I am very proud, as you can imagine to have a house named after my late husband. He would have been really proud."

Francis Mosquera, son of Nemesio the actor, was overwhelmed.

"This is very emotional, something that cannot be explained. It must continue as there are many left out too."

Pepe Noguera's son, also Pepe, was present too and said his father would have been proud of the honour. So too Opposition member Charles Bruzon was touched by the recognition of his father, Louis. Expressing gratitude and this recognition of his father both as a scriptwriter and journalist. He was proud that his father had defended Gibraltar "as every good Gibraltarian should."

Guido Pace, Victor Bashery's nephew was, along with the many others present, happy and proud. He recalled how he had always hoped that there would be a box in the Theatre Royal that would carry his uncle's name.

Maruja Olga Crocock, Pepe Lagares' daughter had made her first trip to the Rock in ten years for the occasion. "I am so proud. Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. This keeps what he has done alive," she said thanking all concerned.

Pepe Nuza, trade unionist, represented the family of Alberto Fava. He noted that many opportunities to recognise Mr Fava's role in history had not been taken including in books and histories of Gibraltar. He was pleased that people had now remembered him.

There were vivid memories for all present. Marie Carmen Gomez, wife of guitarist William, was very proud that her late husband's contribution was being appreciated. It was summed up by Elizabeth Mascarenhas whose husband Manolo is amongst those remembered :

Many of the people honoured are contemporaries and if they all have one thing in common it is that they were all of the people, and their names have survived through the years because they have been remembered by the people. And it was about time they were given recognition. It is a great honour for me and my daughter and for the other families but a bigger honour for those whose names will live on because individually they all contributed a great deal to the local community in many facets to form a part of our history.

Government shoots back at Garcia Mid-Town claims

The Gibraltar Government said yesterday that it totally rejects Opposition member Dr Joseph Garcia's statement on the Mid Town Developmentas displaying "an extraordinary degree of ignorance about how development land is valued".

"Dr Garcia asserts that the Mid Town site must be worth £20 - £25 million because another site, he claims, has been sold for £1,250 per square metre. He argues that since Government obtained 'only' £10 million of value for Mid Town, it must have undersold it. This is complete nonsense," said No 6 adding that Dr Garcia appears not to know or understand that development land is not valued on the basis of its area, but rather on the basis of the density (square metres) of construction that can be built on the land.

"On this basis, the premium payable for the Mid Town site is almost certainly one of the highest, if not the highest ever paid in Gibraltar. This should be contrasted with Dr Garcia's misconceived assertion that the land has been undersold," they said.


Dr Garcia was accuse of even getting "his simplistic arithmetic wrong". "He appears to have overlooked the fact that the majority of this land will be kept in public ownership for the school, the leisure centre and the park. It is not being sold to the developer at all. Save for the semi-basement car park, which is a requirement for the project, only 7500m2 of land are available to the developer for his own development. 12,995 square metres will remain in Government ownership with public amenities on it," said No 6.

The Government argues that using Dr Garcia's formula of £1,250 per square metre for the area of 7,600 square metres produces a premium of £9.5 million.

"Since Government is to receive at least £10 million of value from the Mid Town Developers, Dr Garcia's charge of underselling is unjustified even by his mistaken method of valuation."

The Government said that "unlike the previous GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) Government which awarded all land by direct allocation and put nothing out to tender", this it is putting everything out to tender with the exceptions of land exchanges and projects which are in Gibraltar's particular economic or social interests.

"In this case this is the building of a new school, park and leisure centre by the developer for the Government. Contrary to what Dr Garcia says it would not have been better for the Government to take the £10 million in cash and do these facilities itself. Firstly, that would have exposed Government and not the developer to the risk of cost overruns. Secondly, private developers secure better prices from contractors than Governments; and thirdly Government cannot operate a park and a school underneath a building site with overhead cranes, building works etc. The building of the school and the park can therefore only take place as part of the overall development."

"The GSLP/Libs obsession with criticising and undermining everything that is done by the Government leads it to make absurd public statements. That is the generous interpretation of Dr Garcia's statement. The other possible interpretation is that he genuinely has little understanding and/or knowledge about the issues that he comments on."

Desoisa spells out “implacable opposition” to Funicular Project

Gibraltar Heritage Trust has once again expressed its "implacable opposition" to the funicular project because it would "deface the badge of our cultural identity."

Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday chairman Joe Desoisa on behalf of the anti-funicular lobby group that includes the Environmental Safety Group and GONHS, said the project is "riddled with inconsistencies, incomplete and misleading," while arguing that the figure presented by the developers that it would attract 750,000 tourists to Gibraltar is not backed by any market research or evidence.

Mr Desosia said the groups opposing the plan take issue with statements made by representatives of the developers 21st Century Rock, and argue that they will take legal action if the plan is approved by the Development and Planning Commission since, they say, "the project would be carried out in a conservation area and is in breach of the Heritage and Nature Protection Ordinance."

As regards the decision to be taken by the DPC - the meeting will now take place on March 3rd. Mr Desoisa said he did not know what way it will go but declared that he did not see them "approving the scheme and claiming to retain their sanity."

Meanwhile GONHS epresentative Keith Bensusan replied to statements that the project was supported by the silent majority, remarking that, in fact there was "a not so silent majority against the project." The groups also noted that the petition to stop the project launched some weeks ago is being "well supported by the population."

Mr Desoisa said the official project submission regarding the details of the project is substantially different to some of the later pronouncements made by the company. "What do we go by?" he asks.

He also vigorously disputes the claims that the funicular project is environmentally and heritage friendly putting forward the findings of the developer's own Environmental Impact Assessment to back his objections.

"Their own assessment with 8 negative points as opposed to 3 positive ones that are questionable anyway, deflates the claim that they are environmentally friendly," he said.

Mr Desoisa also rejected that the train could be driven by solar or wind power arguing that in respect of the latter there was no provision in their submission for the installation of windmills in the Rock face. The depth of excavation that would be required to obtain stability for these structures, he continued, was far greater than is suggested by the information and drawings put out by the developer, would breach the ancient walls and create a risk of rock falls on Catalan Bay.

As regards the publicised support in a ratio of 2:1 of Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses members, Mr Desoisa challenged this and said the vast majority of them had not voted and that in real terms this backing amounted to 15% of the membership.

"I think this figure reflects the level of public support for the funicular in the community."

Mr Desoisa said it was "presumptuous and patronising" of the developers to question the motives of the anti-funicular lobby, motives that he said were transparent and based on non-lucrative reasons since they had a responsibility to protect local heritage and environmental interests.

"We have a common objective, and that is that we want to save our Rock," he said.

For his part Mr Bensusan declared that there was an important matter of scale that had to be considered, arguing that to install a funicular in a large park area such as the one in Cape Point would not have any impact, while in a small nature reserve such as the Upper Rock "it would have a visual impact on the whole of Gibraltar."

He also commented on other funiculars in other parts of the world which had not fulfilled expectations. An example was the proposed funicular railway down the side of Mt Vesuvius in 1991 that was subsequently abandoned.

Cairngorm Funicular Train En Route - Aviemore

He also reiterated how the Aviemore funicular in Scotland was running at a financial loss, and noted that a proposal to have one installed in the Machu Pichu had been abandoned after Unesco threatened to withdraw its World Heritage designation "because it is so intrusive."

Messrs Desoisa and Bensusan also said that the Gibraltar Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals had also expressed its opposition to the funicular "because of its effect on wildlife and animals." They said that the groups they represent are in favour of an evolving tourist product for Gibraltar but in a manner that is sustainable and does not harm the environment, and added that the funicular would cause economic harm to other business operators and social harm and discontent in the community.

GTC pledges full backing for MoD workers

Trade union leaders yesterday left a meeting with the Chief Minister Peter Caruana determined to unite and act against the MOD plans to privatise hundreds of local jobs.

Edwin Reyes the Gibraltar Trades Council president told the Chronicle last night that the GTC is "fully on board in support of the T&G and Prospect." "Our main concern is that the MoD does not want to negotiate but has just presented a fait accompli," said Mr Reyes as he left the meeting with fellow union readers. They are not now committing themselves to what action they might take but will continue consulting local political parties - they meet with Opposition leader Joe Bossano today - before adopting an action plan.

Mr Reyes was appalled that there was no clear statement as yet on what the exact cuts will be on the local workforce and asked if MoD are actually committed to keeping certain levels employed.
He said that if there is no shortage of jobs this would simply be MoD passing on responsibilities as employer to the contractor. He said that if their budget is constricted they should have said so and then consulted with the unions. But he warned that the employees' prospects would not be at the mercy of sub-contractors' profit margins.

Mr Reyes said the meeting with the Chief Minister had been frank and that the unions were seeking the recalling of the Representative Bodies Committee because of then implications of this not just for the workers, but for the whole economy.

Police RIB Course

A Police Rib course was held recently organised by the GSP and their instructors.

The course entailed practical work on ribs within the territorial waters and followed by comprehensive theoretical and practical examinations.

Certificates were presented to the officers at a small reception held at GSP Headquarters.

The officers successful in this course were: RGP officers Christopher Ellul and Vicente Cruz, and GSP officers Christian Hermida, Christian Durante, Tyrone Avellano, Jonathan Perez and Ivan Cornelio.

The instructors on the course were Sergeant Chappory, GSP, assisted by PC Darren Golt.

Garcia to attend Liberal Meeting in Canada

The Liberal Party leader Joseph Garcia has been invited to attend the Biennial Convention of the Liberal Party of Canada next month. Dr Garcia has been invited to attend with observer status through Liberal International.

The Liberal Party of Canada is in Government. About 3000 delegates from across Canada will gather in the capital Ottawa for the Congress. The agenda for the Convention will include the election of a National Executive, debates on policy matters and a keynote address by party leader and Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Dr Garcia said:

There have been regular contacts between members of the Liberal Parties of Gibraltar and Canada over the years. In 2002, two Senators from Canada came to Gibraltar to participate in the Executive Committee of Liberal International which took place on the Rock, and earlier, in 2000, Gibraltar delegates had also attended a Congress of Liberal International in Ottawa.

12 Gibraltar linked people held in Spanish Prisons

There are 12 British passport holders with connections to Gibraltar being held in Spanish prisons, two in the Madrid consular district, and 10 in the Malaga consular district.

Of these, nine have been visited in accordance with Consular Prison visits Policy. The other three have declined consular assistance.

This was disclosed in the Commons in response to a question from Andrew Rosindell.

The UK Government said that consular staff in Spain aim to contact British Nationals within 24 hours of being informed of an arrest, and to make a visit within 48 hours. Unless prisoners have said that they do not wish to be visited, Consular staff at British posts should aim to visit all detainees whilst on remand at reasonable intervals as deemed necessary by the Consulate/Embassy. Thereafter, one visit is made after sentencing. Further visits are normally only made if a real need arises (family, health, social problems, etc). Consular staff are not trained to give legal advice and do not routinely attend court hearings.

"There is no requirement for consular staff to inform the Gibraltarian authorities about the arrest of British Nationals with connections to Gibraltar. However, Consular staff do normally inform the Gibraltarian authorities as a matter of courtesy. If the prisoner wishes, Consular staff will also keep family informed."


Related Link: British Embassies and Consulate in the Kingdom of Spain

A round 100 from Rotary Club

The Rotary Club is today celebrating the 100th anniversary of the very first meeting of the first Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club of Gibraltar, which has been in existence since 1966, said a spokesperson was proud to belong to such a prestigious world-wide organisation.

"It maintains its links with the rest of the Rotary family by visiting other clubs outside Gibraltar and also by welcoming to its weekly meetings at the Rock Hotel many visiting members of Rotary from all over the globe."

There are over 1.2 million Rotary club members comprised of professional and business leaders in over 31,000 clubs in more than 165 countries.

Rotary funds club projects and sponsors volunteers with community expertise to provide medical supplies, health care, clean water, food production, job training, and education to millions in need, particularly in developing countries.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Local co-operation agreements announce by ‘Comision Mixta'

Mancomunidad-Gib Govt meeting - Study into local cancer gets go-ahead

F Oliva reports from Algeciras

A joint epidemiological study, closer cross-border cooperation to deal with emergencies in the Bay and the promotion of Gibraltar and the Campo area as a combined tourist product were announced yesterday following the second meeting of the Mancomunidad-Gibraltar Government 'comision mixta' held in Algeciras.

At a press conference in the Mancomunidad headquarters, President Juan Montedeoca said both sides were putting into effect existing political goodwill to reach these agreements.

For his part Chief Minister Peter Caruana explained that there was concern among the population on both sides of the border, about an alleged high incidence of cancer cases in the area. This concern would now be pursued by public health authorities in Gibraltar, the Campo and the Junta de Andalucia who will be sharing their statistical databases in order to either confirm whether these fears are justified or not. The Chief Minister said that if it emerged that the area was at greater risk than other similarly industrialised zones in Europe, a joint epidemiological study would be commissioned to a prestigious international organisation to carry it out. If not, he added, "nos quedaremos mas tranquilos" ("we will all be somewhat relieved").

The other cooperation agreement relates to a joint response in case of emergencies with the setting up of a protocol for the coordination of cross-border resources, that will include police, fire brigade and ambulance, required to deal with such contingencies. A technical working group will be set up to look into the matter, "for the benefit of the area," said Mr Caruana. The third point of agreement relates to the promotion of Gibraltar and the Campo area as a combined tourist product.

Monarch Flight Tests air protocol

A Monarch flight tested the new eased arrangements with Spain on flights when bad weather led to it aborting landing in Gibraltar and flying directly to Malaga.

Previously it would have been obliged to go to Tangier first.

It is understood that the arrangement worked very efficiently and without hitches. The incident was last Wednesday.

Union seeks political support over MoD cuts

Montiel still in hospital

Luis Montiel, TGWU District Officer, is in hospital awaiting kidney and bladder related exploratory surgery. Mr Montiel was taken in last week as a result of what has been an ongoing complaint related to a blockage. Reports last week that he had suffered chest pains were incorrect.

Mr Montiel was in good spirits yesterday and indicated that he will soon be back at work leading the fight against the MoD cuts.

Meanwhile, Charles Sisarello, TGWU/ACTS branch officer has confirmed that the unions will be meeting with Peter Caruana Chief Minister this afternoon in a bid to bring together support and action against MoD's announcement plans to privatise jobs. A meeting with Joe Bossano, Opposition Leader, follows tomorrow and the unions are also seeking support from the main offices in London.

We must take this issue up both at political and trade union level and get as much support as possible to take it up with UK, said Mr Sisarello.