Tuesday, April 05, 2005

MoD rejects Union lawsuit threat

Caruana to meet MPs in London * CJO military chief in Gibraltar

Chief Minister Peter Caruana travels to London today to brief the all-Party Gibraltar Group in the House of Commons on current Gibraltar issues.

A Convent Place spokesman said that the main issue to be addressed by Mr Caruana will be the MoD's privatisation and job reduction plan.

The briefing comes at time when MoD has said that its lawyers reject the claims by the unions that it has acted illegally.

Meanwhile, Chief of Joint Operations Air Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy is in Gibraltar today on the visit to the military based that was postponed after the death of the previous Commander British Forces.

Sir Glenn, who was in Gibraltar a couple of weeks ago to discuss the planned MoD cuts with the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, is expected to visit a number of installations including the Joint Logistics Unit, the Gibraltar Regiment, the MoD hospital and the generating station. He will also carry out some medal presentations.

Mr Caruana's meeting takes place at the House of Commons at 5.30pm. The Chief Minister returns to Gibraltar on Wednesday morning.

In a statement yesterday the MoD said that it takes threats of legal action very seriously and has reaffirmed its legal advice both in the UK and in Gibraltar.

The MoD said it has now received assurances from its legal advisors and can find no basis for the claims made by the Trades Unions and has written to the legal representatives of Prospect Union and Transport & General Workers Union firmly on that basis.

The Command Secretary, Phil Mallion, said that the suggestion that MoD have failed to respond to the trades unions by their deadline is also "misleading".

"Unreasonably, only an effective three working days were allowed to us to provide a considered response to serious allegations which necessitated seeking advice from UK as well as locally. A holding response was therefore provided to the TUs prior to their press announcement of April 1 2005. Having now received comprehensive advice we can find no basis for the TU claims, indeed we remain unclear on what basis the Trades Union are instructing their legal advisors or the form that their proposed legal sanctions will take," he said.

"We are disappointed that the TUs instructed some of their members to return the ISP Project Information Booklets. This is factual information about the project and is aimed as dispelling any misconceptions that our employees may have. It is vital that staff understand the reality of this initiative and its implications for them," said Mr Mallion saying that staff were being kept informed.

The MoD said that contrary to TU claims, just over 200 of the 1100 booklets were returned to MoD and these have since been reissued using other means. As of April 4 2005, only a small number remain undelivered, far short of the 95% claimed by the Trade Union. Anyone who has not yet received a booklet can collect one from the MoD personnel office or media office, they said. The booklet has also been produced in Arabic and will shortly be available in Spanish.

"The Trades Union is correct in its statement that the Transport and General Workers Union have the negotiating rights for the MoD's civilian employees. However what this does not mean is that they can or should stop these employees receiving information about proposed projects and important changes affecting them direct from their employer," said the MoD.

The Command Secretary added that "the MoD has a duty to keep its employees informed about the announcements that have been made that directly affect them. Formal consultation on ISP will be with the Trades Unions and it is our aim to do this in Gibraltar when they return to the accepted and agreed Whitley process."

According to MoD the Gibraltar Trades Unions are attempting to misrepresent their meeting with Senior MoD Officials on the 14th April 2005.

"It is true that MoD officials are meeting with Senior Officials from the National Trades Unions on the 14th of April 2005 in the UK. However this meeting has been arranged in order that MoD can brief the National Trades Unions on the ISP project.

It is understood that the UK National Trades Union have simply invited the local Gibraltar trades unions to a meeting on the same day."

The MoD insists that it is willing to consult with the trades unions over the implementation and impact of the ISP project and invited them to "return to the formally agreed Whitley Process at the earliest opportunity".

The Whitley process is an agreed method of conducting consultation and negotiation between the Ministry of Defence and the Trades Union and is agreed at the highest levels on both sides.

"The Whitley process importantly provides for consultation and discussion over and above that required by law both in UK and Gibraltar," said MoD.

The Command Secretary added:

"We are unable at present to engage in discussions with TUs about any aspect of the ISP, including for example Early Exit Packages, unless it is under the Whitley structure. Separately this inability to discuss important issues, could also have significant implications for initiatives such as Project Pegasus which is reliant upon management/TU co-operation for the generation of a competitive in-house option. We are therefore extremely keen for the trade unions to return to the Whitley process as soon as possible."

Related Links: Gibraltar News Online MoD Contractorisation Poll


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