Wednesday, February 09, 2005

AquaGib strike action declared

Workers seek 2.5 years retrospection pay

TGWU has declared strike action at AquaGibuntil February 14th, TGWU Branch Officer Charlie Sisarello said yesterday. According to a Union statement the disagreement with the company lies in the date when the implementation of the settlement of the pay differential should become effective. Manuel Perez the Aquagib managing director yesterday expressed his regret at this decision. Water supplies could be affected if there are faults.

While the company is prepared to accept the date of January 28 2005 the Union insists this should be retrospective to August 1st 2002.

Mr Sisarello said:

As we reported last week a meeting with management of AquaGib took place on Monday 7th, where the T&G official and Union representatives were present. The purpose of the meeting was to respond to management the position of the members regarding the offer made last Friday on our claim for establishing the pay differential with Gibraltar Government employees that existed at the time of the formation of the company in 1991, when the Gibraltar Government Water Section was privatised and a new private operator called Lyonnaise Des Eaux now AquaGib took over, with many government staff from the then Water Section Department.

In 2001 a similar situation arose, ten years after the establishment of the company, the pay differential agreed at that time had been eroded, the TGWU/ACTS and the company agreed a deal where the issue was settled.

In 2002 as a consequence of the improvements in the industrial and non-industrial pay structure, this has had an effect on the pay levels of our members employed in AquaGib. In 2003 and 2004 we called on the company to address this issue. Last week AquaGib formulated their offer of establishing the pay differentials as submitted by the union as from the 29th January 2005. As such there was an agreement in principle. Our Union representatives fully discussed the outline of the offer, and although as stated we agreed in principle with the company, the discrepancies arose on the implementation date. Our position is that it should be effective from August 1st 2002 and the company as from January 28th. On Monday February 7th we communicated our position to the company, this was rejected outright.

The Union held a meeting of all representatives that same day where it was unanimously decided that as from Wednesday February 9th until Monday February 14th where we will review the situation, strike action would be implemented. Yesterday all union representatives and the TGWU officials gathered to organise the action.

For their part the company stated that on January 27 2005 they received a letter from the union following a meeting of union representatives of the company it had been decided to go on strike action but that after discussions with the Union and employee representatives the company was given up to February 4 to respond to these demands.

On the 4th February 2005 the company responded that at the meeting with company employee representatives, on Thursday 27 January 2005, it became clear that there was confusion as to what had been agreed in 2001. The Board had been informed of this and were clearly concerned, as their position on this matter has been based on the understanding that the offer, after the various clarification meetings held with employees, had been clearly understood. That is that there would be a once and for all restoration of the 1991 position, and that increases would no longer be based on the UK Local Authority Spinal Points but would be based on matching the annual pay increases given to the Gibraltar Government Non-industrial Civil Servants, said Aquagib.

They added:

It must be borne in mind that time has moved on since the foundation of the Company in 1991. Currently out of a complement of 103 there are 90 employees on Company pay and conditions of employment and 13-seconded personnel. There are no industrial seconded personnel. Of the 90 employees mentioned above 53 are ex-Government employees, of which only 17 are ex-industrials.

The Board was nevertheless prepared to carry out a similar adjustment to the Company pay scales as was done in the 2001 pay offer, effective as from 27 January 2005.

In effect the basic salaries for the main grades affected would increase as follows:
Non-Skilled Operatives from £14,192 to £16,025.
Semi-Skilled Operatives from £14,571 to £16,769.
Craftsman from £18,551 to £20,328.

Aquagib say that In order to maintain this essential service and provide a continuous supply of water it should be remembered that there is a substantial amount of overtime worked which is paid at the relevant premium rates and this substantially increases the take-home pay. Other grades that were not ex-Government also see the maximum of their pay scales increased by the company’s offer, says Aquagib, giving the example:

Clerks from £18,028 to £19,589.
Meter Readers from £18,708 to £20,328.
Repairs and Maintenance Operatives from £16,221 to £17,519.

The company reiterated that it will be putting proposals to the staff for a new pay structure for the future.

We have been informed by the Union that although the offer is acceptable in principle that their members are seeking retrospection from August 2002. We have informed the Union that the pay offer already puts a heavy burden on the company and in any case we are unable to raise revenues retrospectively and therefore are unable to meet this additional demand to that made in their letter of the 27th January 2005.

We have been informed today that employees who are ACTS/TGWU members will be taking strike action effective from midnight February 8, 2005. The company regrets this decision, taken by these employees, that will inevitable lead to supplies of water to Gibraltar being affected as and when water stocks decrease or technical faults arise that cannot be repaired.


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