Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Chief Justice gives Union go ahead to challenge cuts

Dominique Searle reports

Call for all to support today’s demo • UK Secretary of State to be sued in Gibraltar court

Ahead of the mass demonstration called for 10 am this morning from Casemates, TGWU and Prospect were yesterday celebrating a first victory in the bid to stall MoD plans to privatise jobs.

Chief Justice Derek Schofield made a ruling that allows the unions to move ahead with their case to push the MoD into proper consultation before proceeding further. The unions were also awarded costs.

The defendant for the case will be the UK Secretary of State for Defence, not MoD as such, and the hearing is set to go ahead at the Supreme Court in September.

A beaming Luis Montiel, TGWU district officer, expressed delight at having “won the round” in pursing union rights. “Despite the colonial obstacles justice will be heard. The MoD cannot run away from their responsibilities,” he said backed by the GTC chief Edwin Reyes and by Prospect/GGCA secretary Michael Tampin who urged the MoD to use this opportunity to, rather than fight in court, meet the unions for talks and consultation and halt the privatisation process. He expressed satisfaction with the way the union lawyers had performed.

That message was reinforced by Dai Hudd, Prospect’s assistant General Secretary in UK who said the decision, that had “looked at the arguments” as well as the question of who the defendant should be, gives MoD time to reflect and to enter a process which could produce a solution which is “good for Gibraltar, good for the MoD and good for the union members.”

Later the union lawyers highlighted that the decision is of fundamental constitutional importance for Gibraltar since it now means that United Kingdom Government departments can no longer operate in Gibraltar as if immune from claims for breaches of statutory duty or in negligence.

The Court has also decided that Gibraltar claimants do not have to bring claims against United Kingdom Government departments before the UK courts, with all the costs and hassle that implies. Instead, they may do so in Gibraltar.

In his ruling the judge also made clear that the Attorney General for Gibraltar is the law officer of the Government of Gibraltar. He is not the correct defendant for any matter in which the Crown in right of the Government of the United Kingdom, or an emanation of it, is the defendant.

The ruling also accepted that the unions have substantive claims under constitutional law. The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has jurisdiction to hear the constitutional claims against the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Gibraltar Constitution.

Mr Justice Schofield decided that although a claim under the Employment Ordinance for breach of the duty to inform and consult could have been brought by the unions before the Industrial Tribunal in Gibraltar, this does not oust the Supreme Court’s general jurisdiction to hear the claim. He agreed the arguments should not be spread between different hearings.

Legal team leaders are James Levy QC and Lewis Baglietto for TGWU, Keith Azopardi for Prospect, and Peter Isola Sr with Christian Rocca for the MOD side.

Union urges Private Sector Attendance

TGWU has called on its members in the private sector to support this morning’s demonstration by MOD workers against contractorisation at the naval base.

Workers have been asked to assemble at Casemates at 10am and then to march down toward The Convent to hand in a petition to the Governor.

Gibraltar Government recently took the step of announcing its employees can attend the demonstration.

Meanwhile Gibraltar Taxi Association has declared its full support to the Gibraltar Trades Council backed demonstration in support of MOD workers later today. The main GTA office will be closed during the demonstration although minimum services will be maintained.

The Opposition also called for massive support for the demonstration “The Unions can count on us for any action designed to stop contractarisation. We will be there at the demonstration with the Unions and we call on all of Gibraltar and all GSLP/Liberal party members to come out in support,” said the Opposition Leader.

Related Links:

Gibraltar News Online Contractorisation Poll

28 June 2005 - GTC urges mass turn out at MoD demo

28 June 2005 - Government Regrets Teachers' Union Dismay

21 June 2005 - Unions and MoD clash in court

26 May 2005 MoD Contractorisation hearing set for June

12 May 2005 Unions escalate MoD dispute

19 April 2005 Unions declare a united front on MoD Contractorisation

15 April 2005 No progress in Union-MoD Contractorisation talks

12 April 2005 MPs urge Hoon to halt ‘Done Deal’

05 April 2005 MoD rejects Union lawsuit threat

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