Thursday, July 21, 2005

Caruana spells out conditions for settlement at Naval Base

Prevent privatisation and retain workforce within MoD

Chief Minister Peter Caruana is “quietly hopeful” that the Ministry of Defence will drop its privatisation plans and instead achieve the savings it requires at the Naval Base through a negotiated solution with the workers.

That solution should deliver the necessary savings while ensuring that the workforce remains directly employed by the MoD, he added.

Mr Caruana was speaking yesterday evening after he was briefed on the latest developments in the MoD dispute by a delegation of local union leaders.

Last Monday, Defence Secretary, John Reid met with senior UK union officials from the Transport and General Workers’ Union and Prospect to discuss the Gibraltar privatisation, amongst other issues.

Dr Reid promised to provide a detailed response in writing to the points raised by the unions on Gibraltar “with a view to reaching an agreed way forward.”

“It appears that there are early signs that the MoD may be modifying its position in a positive direction,” Mr Caruana told the Chronicle. “But we’ll have to wait to see what [Dr Reid’s] statement is in that regard before we can be certain that there is a move such as will allow a negotiation to take place.”

“I think both [the Gibraltar] government and unions agree that the early indications appear to be positive.

I am quietly hopeful that the combination of the union effort and the government effort is going to persuade the MoD of the need to adopt a negotiated approach to this.”

And yet despite the cautious optimism at the latest developments, neither Mr Caruana nor the unions are dropping their guard.

The Chief Minister confirmed that government officials would continue working on new legislation aimed at protecting worker rights in privatisation situations such as this.

The law package currently being drafted aims to protect the pension rights of any MoD employee who may be transferred to the private sector, not just for the years already served but also in the years to come. Additionally, the new law – which Mr Caruana said echoed British Government policy in the UK – would establish similar pension rights for any new employee that joined the private company.

“The principal position is to prevent the privatisation through a negotiated settlement that delivers savings to the MoD but leaves the workforce in the Ministry of Defence,” Mr Caruana said.

“That is the joint policy objective of the unions and the government and that is what any negotiation would be for.

Now, we need to make it clear that should the MoD nevertheless insist on pursuing privatisation and if there is no change of course, then they should not think that they can privatise on terms that destroy decades of socio-economic engineering in Gibraltar.

Top of the list of those issues is the fact that they can’t convert 300 pensionable jobs into 300 non-pensionable jobs.”

TGWU district officer Luis Montiel echoed that sentiment after yesterday’s meeting. He was positive about the latest developments and expressed a similar hope that a negotiated solution would be found.

Ultimately, successful talks could see the unions dropping the legal case they started against the MoD to stop the privatisation at the Naval Base. But that would only happen under certain conditions, Mr Montiel said. “Notwithstanding the fact that we see light, we will only stop our legal challenge if the basic criteria satisfy our requirements,” he said.

Related Links:

20 July 2005 - Negotiated settlement to Naval Base jobs crisis gains ground

19 July 2005 - Unexpected breakthrough in Gibraltar contractorisation battle

15 July 2005 - Reid briefed on Gibraltar MoD cuts

14 July 2005 - MoD refrain from appeal in Unions case

30 June 2005 - Contractorisation gets big 'NO'

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

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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