Tuesday, April 12, 2005

'Outraged' Union warn of full scale confrontation with MoD

by F. Oliva

Reaction to CBF Chronicle interview - TGWU has launched a scathing attack on Commander British Forces Commodore Allan Adair by way of reply, following the interview published in Saturday's Chronicle.

In a strongly worded statement issued yesterday TGWU District Officer Luis Montiel describes the CBF as "arrogant," and accuses him of "trying to steamroll contractorisation without due regard to the terrible repercussions on the workforce and the local community."

Expressing outrage at Commodore Adair's "inaccurate and inflammatory" remarks that, he says, do not improve industrial relations, Mr Montiel claims the CBF is taking a political stance and "forcing the Union into full-scale industrial confrontation."

The Union leader says Commodore Adair has a "superficial understanding" of the issues and is "treating Gibraltarians as 2nd class citizens."

Mr Montiel reiterates they will defend MoD workers on the legal front and on the industrial front "using every available weapon at its disposal," while dismissing the ISP booklet as "propaganda, not information."

Demanding talks with the MoD at the highest level, Mr Montiel rejects what he considers the CBF's "crass attempt to run roughshod over his and the MoD's legal obligations," and vows that this will be "halted either in the local courts or in the European Courts."

MoD willing to discuss 'Impact' of decision

For its part the Ministry of Defence has said that Command Secretary, Phil Mallion, will return to the UK on Wednesday in order "to deliver a briefing on the ISP initiative requested by the UK TGWU and Prospect Unions."

Following the briefing, said an MoD spokesman, "there will be an opportunity to discuss issues related to the impact of the contractorisation decision."

The MoD spokesman said Mr Mallion will lead the MoD delegation which will also include Defence Estates and HR representatives from the UK. The meeting will take place at TGWU HQ in Transport House, London.

Monttiel outraged by CBF remarks

District Officer Luis Montiel said:

"The TGWU and Prospect are outraged by the arrogant, inaccurate and inflammatory statement made by the Commander British Forces in his interview with the Chronicle on Monday 11 April 2005.

His statement shows lack of knowledge of the situation and a superficial uderstanding of the issues involved in this case. It is amazing that an officer of his status is taking such a clearly political stance, imperilling the MoD's position in Gibraltar by forcing the Unions into full-scale industrial confrontation.

When Commodore Adair talks about the workers not understanding the impact of the decision, we assume that he means that it is a command from Headquarters that has to be obeyed, not only by him as a junior officer, but also by the Unions and their members. The Unions do not take orders from anyone except their members.

The Unions have not withdrawn from any negotiating forum. The Transfer of Undertakings Directive does not require the Whitley process, which is a device manufactured by the MoD and used by it as a ploy to cloud the issues. What they have done is withdraw from a fiction. The MoD's insistence on it is intended to exploit the vulnerability of the workers, whilst pretending that there is real consultation. It seems that CBF is perfectly happy to aggravate the situation rather than progress any genuine plans that the MoD in the UK may have to negotiate with the Unions on the real issues.

The ISP booklet, on which CBF places such reliance, is propaganda, not information. The Unions reiterate that they have instructed their members to return it unopened to CBF. The ISP booklet is deliberately misleading and the Unions are surprised that the MoD would go to such lengths to confuse the Unions' members.

For example, the booklet says that if an employee resigns as a result of the impending contractorisation, that amounts to a breach of contract by the employee and he loses all of his rights to redundancy payments and to claim unfair dismissal. This is wrong in fact and in law and is a misleading statement that should be investigated by the authorities.

CBF's cheap attempt to drive a wedge between the Government of Gibraltar and the workers is certainly not going to get anywhere. The Unions are totally satisfied of the support, not only of the Government of Gibraltar, but indeed all the Gibraltar political parties. Furthermore, the Unions have the wholehearted support of their members and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise.

The fact that the MoD has stated clearly that there is nothing to negotiate on contractorisation shows a clear intention to continue to breach the Transfer of Undertakings Directive. If the MoD does not withdraw its ill-conceived implementation of its contractorisation plans, the Unions are going to have this matter litigated either in the Gibraltar Courts or in the European Court. Furthermore, there will be the most comprehensive industrial action known in Gibraltar's recent history.

CBF's colonial and discriminatory mentality is manifested by his defence of the MoD's actions, when the MoD has clearly complied with their obligations in the UK, but has not done so in Gibraltar. The MoD has suggested that it is prepared to consult with the Unions in Gibraltar when, in fact, they already owe a duty to do so and have had such a duty for some time. By dismissing the idea in such a reckless fashion, CBF has failed to understand a point which the MoD itself has grasped: that both he and the MoD are bound by legal obligations, as well as moral ones, in Gibraltar.

CBF may feel that the MoD can get away with an arrogant, highhanded and illegal attitude in Gibraltar and towards Gibraltarian workers, but he is wrong. What CBF has failed to take into account is that, to the extent that Gibraltar law remains in its colonial state, European law would override it and therefore his crass attempt to run roughshod over his and the MoD's legal obligations will be halted either in the local courts or in the European Courts. This is a clear case of the CBF treating Gibraltarians as 2nd class citizens as our Unions have been saying publicly for months.

There are many other inconsistencies and disingenuous statements in CBF's interview that we will not take up at this stage. All we can say is that his arrogant interview does not improve industrial relations. The Union is committed to defend its members on the legal front and on the industrial front using every available weapon at is disposal.

Contrary to the assertions of CBF, it is not the Unions that have "buried their heads in the sand" or been unhelpful, rather the fact that CBF has been put or put himself in a straitjacket, which is causing this impasse. Therefore, the Unions know perfectly well why CBF is trying to steamroll this contractorisation without due regard to the terrible repercussions on the workforce and the local Gibraltar community. He has painted himself into a corner for no valid reason and to the detriment of good relations between the MoD and the Unions. For these reasons we feel the need to discuss this issue at the highest level and hence the purpose of our meeting in London.

Union Tribute

The Transport and General Workers’ Union wishes to pay tribute to Victor Joyce, shop steward at the Customs Department, who died on Saturday, 9th April 2005, at the age of 48, for his conscientious and energetic contribution to the interests of the union and the members he represented. May Victor rest in peace.

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