Friday, May 13, 2005

Prospect spells out two pronged ‘attack’ on MoD Privatisation Plan

Union seeks meeting with new UK Minister

The legal claim served by local unions on the Ministry of Defence this week is just one element of a two-pronged attack on the controversial privatisation plan at the Naval Base, a senior UK union official said yesterday.

Steve Jary, recently appointed national officer for MoD/Energy issues at Prospect, said the union would request a meeting with the UK’s new defence minister, Dr John Reid, specifically to discuss the Gibraltar privatisation plan.

Along with other unions involved in the dispute, Prospect will urge the minister to scrap the present plan. While stressing that it was important to maintain pressure on the MoD locally, Mr Jary said the decision to privatise had been taken at ministerial level and could only be reversed in London.

Mr Jary, who met with Commander British Forces Commodore Alan Adair during his visit, added that it was vital to fight the plan at a political level in the UK.

“Essentially we are adopting a twin track approach,” he told the Chronicle.
“There’s the pressure in Gibraltar and dealing with the issues in Gibraltar, dealing with the legal action.

And then in the UK it’s at a political level and also dealing with [officials at the MoD’s] Permanent Joint Headquarters’, because they are behind it.

It’s not that there’s no point in applying pressure here, but basically, we can apply all the pressure we want on him [Commodore Adair], but it ain’t going to change the decision.”

Michael Tampin, Prospect’s Gibraltar branch secretary, backed that assessment.
“Whatever pressure we apply here gets back to the UK,” he said. “We’re continuing with the legal case and we think we have a very strong legal case against the MoD.”
“But even that legal case…will still not stop the decision,” he added. “The decision has to be stopped in the UK.”

No Consultation

Mr Jary will be calling on Dr Reid and Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, to stop the current process under way in Gibraltar and go back to the beginning, except this time with the close involvement of the unions and other stakeholders.

UK representatives of both Prospect and the Transport and General Workers’ Union/ACTS, who are working closely on this issue, would attend any meeting with ministers.

The unions argue that the MoD has failed to stick to the established rules and procedures that normally apply to such privatisation schemes, which normally involve up to 12 months of initial consultation before anything actually happens.

“The problem we’ve got here is that the first stages were missed out by the department, so all of the participation and consultation around the decision hasn’t happened,” Mr Jary said, without speculating on why this happened.

“Normally…we go through that process and sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not. [But] we’re always successful in changing the shape of what’s planned in some way or other.

The difficulty [in Gibraltar] is that at the moment, everyone thinks it’s a stupid decision and nobody at the MoD has been able to explain why it isn’t a stupid decision.”

Not just MoD

Prospect, which has a total of around 104,000 members in the private and public sectors, represents 1000 workers locally, most of them civil servants. The union has around 100 members who are local MoD employees.

Perhaps inevitably, Mr Jary’s visit was dominated by the privatisation issue even though its main purpose had in fact been to introduce him to the local membership and to local officials.

During his three-day stay, he held meetings with Chief Minister Peter Caruana – he gave no details of the discussions, though they covered issues relating to the civil service as well as the MoD – and Prospect’s local section representatives.

He also met with the MoD action committee, which brings together representatives from TGWU/Acts and Prospect, and will meet with members of the GSLP/Liberal opposition this morning, before flying back to the UK.


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