Thursday, February 03, 2005

Nursing Section in new rift with TGWU Leadership

Union crisis

A major internal row has erupted in the TGWU following the sudden resignation of the entire Nursing Section Committee of St Bernard’s Hospital as a result of serious discrepancies with the Union leadership.

It is understood the rift could have repercussions on the transfer to the new hospital premises at Europort since this committee is at the forefront of the on-going negotiations for the modernisation of the Gibraltar Health Authority.

In a statement issued yesterday nurses leader Michael Netto accused Chief Minister Peter Caruana of “bullying tactics” and deliberately undermining the role of the committee, and pointed the finger at the TGWU leadership of Luis Montiel and Charlie Sisarello whom he said, were “surrendering their duties and functions.” Mr Netto also claimed that there were moves to “divide and demoralise” nurses and referred to the existence of “personal and political agendas”.

However the TGWU has rejected these criticisms and Mr Sisarello responded to Mr Netto saying that the resignation had come as a surprise.

I cannot understand their decision. They have been kept informed and involved in the negotiations with management from beginning to end. I think they have jumped the gun.
Mr Sisarello told the Chronicle last night.

It was a hectic day at Transport House yesterday as different sets of workers converged at the Union offices expecting their separate claims to be attended. The presence of 100 nurses coincided with a large contingent of immigration staff from the airport and frontier who also have pending claims with their employer. Employees from Checkout supermarket who are to be made redundant at the end of the month also sought Union advice.

Nursing Section “totalloy confused,” says Sisarello

In a statement Mr Sisarello said:

The TGWU/ACTS Union rejects the unfounded and unfair criticism levelled by the outgoing Nursing Section Committee. The nurses know full well that the nursing section has been fully engaged in all negotiations and has participated in all decisions taken with management. At no time and for no reason should the Nursing Section consider that they have been undermined either by a number of nurses or by the Union.

The Nursing Section is totally confused in attacking nurses who they say, are conspiring for political reasons, and the Government and Union. In essence, everybody — the nurses, the Union, the management of the GHA are all wrong and they are right.

On pending claims and other related issues we have sought solutions. All claims have been met and the only outstanding issue is the retrospection, which both the GHA management and the Union is willing to negotiate. A delegation of nurses attended a meeting at Transport House yesterday and they complained that the nursing section have not been informing them of the different meetings that have been taking place. The nurses were very critical of the work of the nursing section and that has been the reason for their resignation. In turn the latter are making other allegations to cloud the real issue. They have resigned because nurses have no confidence in them.

Union values “violated,” says Michael Netto

A Nursing Section committee spokesman said:

We wish to inform nurses in the Gibraltar Health Authority that all committee members, except the section convenor Michael Netto (as requested by us), resigned from the committee yesterday. We have taken this action because we believe that our role is being deliberately undermined by the Chief Minister and by a number of nurses for personal or political reasons, and furthermore Union leaders are surrendering their duties and functions.

The GHA is going through one of the most difficult moments in its history. Issues of great importance to nurses, like the ‘Agenda for Change’ an independent health authority and the future resourcing of the GHA will have implications for us. It is important that nurses do not lose out in this process. We should not be treated differently to Government employees in other departments undergoing any process of restructure. Even though some progress has recently been made in the current negotiations, the manner and presentation of the offers are clearly intended to undermine and divide the membership.

However we finds ourselves in a position where meetings are taking place between the Chief Minister and Union leaders to discuss nursing claims. These meetings, it appears, serve to shape and conduct the process of negotiations at a later date in a manner that serves the interest of the employer, not the best interest of the nurses.

We feel that traditional union values and principles are being violated with the acquiescence of some Union leaders. These isolated meetings without nursing representatives seem to be for the purpose of massaging and neutralising a natural negotiating process. As a result nurses will be left divided and demoralised not only in relation to the pending claims but in future negotiations relating to the ‘Agenda for Change’ and the future independent authority. Leadership style is essential to our negotiating process. It is our trade union officials who set the overall tone of the negotiations. If they fail to provide space where unity of approach is required the committee will be faced with a ‘fait accompli’, leaving no room to manoeuvre in the negotiating table.

The Nursing Section has no problem in defending its members against the bullying tactics of Convent Place, what we cannot do effectively is to fight the employer and find time to re-energize our trade union officials in Transport House. For this reason we must resign and ensure that the newly elected committee counts with the greatest support as possible to handle the present and future claims. We must bring these issues to the attention of the nursing staff because if we do not, our ability to obtain a good deal in these and future negotiations would be greatly hindered.

In the current scenario the Nursing Section would find it impossible to continue negotiations and therefore request from the nursing convenor to organise elections for the committee immediately. It is important that the interests of our members is served by a committee that has the full support of its members and that we, the nurses fully understand the odds against us.

The present Nursing Section has always embraced the modernisation of the GHA with a view to improve standards for the benefit of patients. We equally believe that Union members deserve a truly strong, independent and professional union that places the interests of its members first and foremost. In our case we feel that this has been lacking.

Management are clearly aware of the divide between Transport House officials and its shop stewards. At the same time the Nursing Section has a duty not to allow those with personal or political agendas to use this dispute and hence to undermine our aim of achieving a good deal for our members, either now or in future important negotiations. We hope that by resigning from the committee the membership, GHA, and Union leadership reflect on these issues before Union members become further dissatisfied with our Union. The beneficiaries of such a situation would be the political class not the membership.


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