Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Matter of Principle not money, says Union

Fire Brigade Dispute

TGWU/ACTS has declared that the current dispute with members of the Fire Brigade over the introduction of ambulance duties, is not a question of money but “a matter of principle.”

In a statement issued yesterday Transport House said that fire-fighters felt they were the aggrieved party after “unilateral negotiations in 2002 of which they were not aware,” involving their fire-control colleagues with the Gibraltar Government.

The Union further argue that this development had broken a 1999 accord that set out pay differentials and now demands a restoration of the previous position. A TGWU/ACTS spokesman said:

“In December 1999 at the Personnel Dept of the Gibraltar Government an agreement was reached between the A.C.T.S. union representing the Fire Control Operators, Fire fighters and Government to introduce the Ambulance full mobilisation by the Fire Service.”

In that agreement which is the bone of contention, it was established that:

• Fire Control Operators would receive a mixture of cash allowance and a lower pension’s upgrade.
• Fire fighters negotiated only an increase in basic rate for pension purpose only on retirement.

This meant that whilst the Fire Control Operators would get an annual allowance non-pensionable and a basic wage for pensionable purposes only, the fire fighters’ only enhancement was an increase in the basic salaries for pensionable purposes on retirement only. In 2002, the 1999 accord was broken through unilateral negotiations where the fire fighters were not involved and were not aware. Subsequently the fire fighters demanded that restoration of the principle agreed in December 1999. To achieve this objective there exists two options:

• Either the cash allowance agreed with the Fire Control Operators in 1999 becomes non-pensionable, an avenue not accepted by the members or
• Fire fighters are given the same cash allowance as their counterparts in the Control Room or enhance their pension rights to reflect the above.

The ACTS members in the fire service consider that this issue is not a question of money, but a matter of principle, as they feel they have been the losing party of the original agreement. What our members are asking is that Government adheres to the accord of 1999. As it is standard policy, the union is willing to enter into meaningful negotiations.”

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