Wednesday, March 02, 2005

MoD advertise Contracts in EU Journal

Military base staff protest over ‘done deal’

Dominique Searle reports

Two hours in the continuous rain, chilled by a cold front, some of their placards soggy and fallen, a couple hundred MoD workers held a demonstration at their work entrance to the naval base where officials from the Permanent Joint Headquarters UK were meeting in the Tower with base managers to set out the plans for privatisation of an initial 300 jobs.

And there was no sign of relenting on the decision to privatise as it emerged that an advertisement detailing the areas for work that are on offer will be published in the EU Journal today for potential private sector bidders with an estimated value of requirement set at £20m to £100m.

The advertisement today is to set out the main areas for contractorisation: facilities management, estates management, construction and engineering, operation and maintenance, professional advisory services and support, design services, inspection services, airfield services, electrical production and HV distribution and main engineering and electrical workshop, shore power (including Z berth), joiners shop, water storage and distribution, planning, control and overseeing, oil fuel depot, shipping and freight movement, stores, warehouse and stock control, marine services group and mooring section management, armaments, material accounting and administration. Project management and possible delivery of works in excess of £240,000.

Over a dozen Royal Gibraltar Police officers were called away from other duties just after 4pm and joined another dozen of the Gibraltar Security Police officers to form a human barrier to allow the cars taking the officials to the airport to make their exit.

The union leaders present – Charles Sisarello TGWU/ACTS, Michael Tampin of Prospect and Edwin Reyes GTC – had agreed that they would allow the cars through but wanted a clear message sent that the unions were ready to defend the jobs.

"We want them to see that we are standing for our rights,” said Edwin Reyes who will this morning chair a session of the Gibraltar Trades Council which will consider the strategy on this major dispute.

The phrase ‘done deal’ has crept into the dispute with the unions warning that this was a carve up.

In the morning they issued a joint statement about the PJHQ team’s day visit saying this was in order to prepare and initiate procedures for the “Infrastructure Services Provider”, jargon meaning the potential contractors. The union said that the areas for privatisation - Works Area Packages - are intended to be segmented into sections, broken up for the tenders ready for the bidders. That seemed to be confirmed by the advertisement for the EU Journal which itself is a legal requirement in the EU.

This once again shows the hidden agenda held by the MoD by not informing or consulting with the unions in another ‘Done Deal’. Again, spreading a clear signal that the MoD workforce is being sold out,” said the unions.

Placards outside the gates of the MoD base spoke of the MoD as the “Ministry of Deceit” and the unity of the unions in this issue was highlighted by logos on their banners.

They were joined by the Voice of Gibraltar Group under a battle of umbrellas and wet workers who made their point and let the car slip to the airport without aggression, but rendering a brief chorus of what’s on their mind. Many are still upset at the suggestion that they would be violent. “This is not Northern Ireland. We won’t put bombs –que den la cara (face the music),” shouted one protestor. Another privately suggested that the biggest issue here was the insecurity of their employment and their pension and other rights. They want secure jobs.

Prospect on Politics

As regards the Union’s recruitment of political support for their campaign, Prospect said yesterday:

It is not a matter of TU’s supporting political parties but rather political parties supporting the Trade Unions who take full responsibility and initiative in defending the interests of all the members they represent. In this context, we welcome and appreciate the existing support shown by the Gibraltar Government and all other political parties, remembering that support given is accomplished by consultation with the Unions.

The policy as announced by the Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, will be fought by the Trade Unions in defence of its members in the MoD until we stop the contractor from coming in. The Trade Unions welcome all groups within Gibraltar to support and join us.

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