Saturday, March 19, 2005

Caruana - Hoon talks fail to move MoD stance

The Chief Minister Peter Caruana returned from his flying visit to London yesterday and admitted that the effort, to persuade Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary, and Adam Ingram, Armed Forces Minister, to reverse their decision to proceed on contractorisation, had failed.

But Mr Caruana said that he is not giving up despite some of his hopes having been dashed. “MoD remains camped in its determination and the Government remains camped in its equal determination to resist and we will continue to press the MOD to alter course,” said Mr Caruana adding that this would end either in talks or confrontation.

Mr Caruana said Mr Hoon did not appear to have been moved by the argument that the methodology – no consultation and moving ahead on contractorisation without regard to the social and economic impact to Gibraltar – was improper.

Mr Caruana had hoped to persuade the MOD ministers that they should pull back their tender advertisement for contractors to take over the functions in MOD that affect initially 300 jobs but eventually some 700 and to instead engage in the sort of negotiations with the unions that they had done under the Pegasus initiative.

Mr Caruana yesterday briefed TGWU/ACTS and Prospect trade union leaders on the outcome of his meeting in London which he characterised as a “full and frank exchange of views about the MOD’s contractorisation plans and the manner and method being pursued by MOD.”

Both sides stated their position and Mr Caruana had repeated the case that he has already stated publicly in Gibraltar, including a request for meaningful negotiations with the Trade Unions. Mr Hoon had repeated MOD’s view that MOD’s wish to contractorise is no more or less than they are doing elsewhere, including in the UK itself and does not reflect any reduction in MOD’s commitment to Gibraltar.

However, Mr Hoon did agree to consider an economic impact assessment that the Gibraltar Government will provide to him. In addition some other aspects of the meeting will be continued in correspondence. This is understood to refer to Mr Hoon having said that in-house options are not ruled out, something which Mr Caruana has said is not consistent with refusing to discuss these.

In a statement Government said that the meeting has not produced any change in MOD’s present position.

“The Gibraltar Government will continue with its efforts to try and persuade MOD to engage the Unions in negotiations about mutually acceptable ways of delivering efficiency savings to the MOD.”

Mr Caruana said that whilst the MOD has work requirements it has a responsibility to behave as a good and reasonable employer – that would mean not doing a done deal and instead engaging with the unions.

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