Thursday, June 30, 2005

MOD workers say ‘NO’ to base contractorisation

• Governor sympathetic to our cause, says Montiel

Gibraltar’s trade unions yesterday vowed to fight MoD contractorisation till the end and warned the British Government to take heed of their message.

TGWU Branch Officer Charles Sisarello delivered a stark warning to London. “If they want a military base in Gibraltar they must pay for it under existing conditions,” he declared.

Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 protestors assembled at Casemates Square at 10am to express their rejection of MoD plans to privatise services at the naval base.

Addressing the crowd TGWU District Officer Luis Montiel recalled the “joint sovereignty deal” and said that “time and time again,” UK Ministers take decisions from above and then present Gibraltar with “a fait accompli.” “We must not allow the MoD to undermine our living standards and hard won rights,” he exclaimed.

In a combative speech that was highly critical of the Ministry of Defence, Mr Montiel declared that for every 100 direct jobs that are lost in the MoD there will be a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy that will result in the loss of a further 20 jobs.

Mr Montiel said direct pensionable jobs constituted the main contribution by the naval base, and reminded those present that parity derives from MoD pay structures.

“The MoD is a very important employer for Gibraltar because it provides 1,000 quality direct jobs and pensions.”

He said the local economy was not the same as the UK, arguing that as a frontier town contractorisation can result in the replacement of local workers by “frontier workers of many nationalities.”

Calling on the MoD to reconsider its position and “come to the negotiating table,” Mr Montiel also expressed gratitude for the support by the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and highlighted the need for popular unity.

The District Officer concluded his intervention chanting 1970’s slogans:

“el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido y hasta la victoria siempre.”

The protestors then made their way to The Convent to present a petition to the Governor reaffirming their opposition and calling on the MoD to halt the contractorisation process.

Caruana and Bossano express support

When the demonstrators reached The Convent, Chief Minister Peter Caruana came down from his office to address them.

Also referring to the failed joint sovereignty deal, Mr Caruana said Gibraltar responded when the collective dignity was challenged. He remarked that although the MoD was a welcome part of the community, they had to behave in a reciprocal manner and for Gibraltar to treat them with dignity “they have to treat us with dignity.”

The Chief Minister said it would be a grave mistake if the MoD did not accept reasonable, civilised discussion but warned that if “they chose confrontation, Gibraltar does not shy away from conflict when basic human rights are challenged.” He added that the Government stood squarely behind the trade union movement.

The Leader of the Opposition also expressed similar sentiments of support for the demonstrators, reaffirming the need to defend the rights of the working class.

A Union delegation held a brief meeting with Governor Sir Francis Richards after which Mr Montiel said that the Governor had expressed his sympathy for their cause.

In a statement later the Convent said that the Governor had received a Union delegation, led by Luis Montiel TGWU district officer.

“Mr Montiel explained the unions concerns and handed over a petition expressing opposition to the MoD proposals to enter negotiations to introduce an Integrated Service Provider.”

The Governor had said he was “aware of the unions views and the strength of feeling expressed in the petition and undertook to convey these to the Ministry of Defence in London”.

Earlier Branch Officer Charles Sisarello spoke against the dangers of “cheap labour and worsening conditions of employment.” Mr Sisarello criticised the MoD’s “unilateral decision” and lack of consultation. The Branch Officer said:

“We will not stand by and see hard won rights being eroded.

The MoD policy is a recipe for disaster which we will not tolerate.”

Attendance Figures

The bulk of the participants at the demonstration were the affected MoD workers and Gibraltar Government employees who had been given two hours off by management to take part.

Members from both sides of the House of Assembly supported the demonstration as did representatives of numerous local social organisations.

Mr Montiel said attendance figures were 4,000 at Casemates picking up to 6,000 outside The Convent. RG Police put the attendance at Casemates at between 3,500-4,000.

Reform Party Congratulates Organisers

The Reform Party yesterday congratulated both the organisers and participants of yesterday’s trade union anti-contractorisation demon-stration. A party spokesman said:

“We were delighted to be able to participate, banners flying, in such an important show of solidarity.

This is a clear case of demanding social fairness where it is being withheld and we will continue to offer our wholehearted support to the campaign.”


Related Links:

29 June 2005 - Reform Party congratulates demo organisers and participants

29 June 2005 - Chief Justice gives Union go ahead to challenge cuts

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

12 May 2005 Unions escalate MoD dispute

19 April 2005 Unions declare a united front on MoD Contractorisation

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

Gibraltar News Online Contractorisation Poll

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