Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Union Lawyers scrutinise Employment Laws

Unions resisting the MoD bid to contractorise jobs in Gibraltar have engaged lawyers to scrutinise employment legislation in Gibraltar and Britain as well as the terms being proposed by the MOD itself.

A meeting today between Prospect and its lawyer Keith Azopardi comes as British ministers claimed workers in Gibraltar are as protected as they would be in Britain.

Adam Ingram, Armed Forces Minister has stated that the Gibraltar Employment Ordinance provides the equivalent legislation in Gibraltar to Britain’s Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 (Tupe). He told the Commons that MOD staff transferred to a contractor in Gibraltar will have their terms and conditions of service, including pay, protected as part of a transfer of undertakings.

He was replying to a question from Lyndsay Hoyle MP who asked whether TUPE rules will apply to the transfer of his Department’s jobs in Gibraltar to the private sector.

The Chronicle understands that TUPE rules apply on the transfer of a business or undertaking. This often occurs when a business is sold or a function is outsourced and the entity retains its identity. Employees of the undertaking transfer to the new organisation on their existing terms and conditions.

In Britain, staff dismissed for a reason connected with the transfer can automatically claim unfair dismissal. But if the original employer can establish that there was an economic, technical or organisational reason for changes in the workforce, then it has a defence to any claim of unfair dismissal. According to one source, even if the original employer can establish an economic or technical reason, the procedure for carrying out the dismissal still needs to be fair. If it was not then liability for the dismissal remains with the former employer.

Meanwhile, answering separate MOD questions Mr ingram said that British Forces Gibraltar currently owns 515 houses.

“None are being sold or gutted. However, under the Lands Agreement, 123 quarters will be passed to GOG, 392 quarters in total will then be available for use by MOD, including 96 which will be leased from Royal Gibraltar Regiment Trust. A total of 47 properties are currently being improved and it is planned to improve 114 in the future.”

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