Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Negotiated settlement to Naval Base jobs crisis gains ground

MoD-Unions come closer


Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP - Secretary of State for Defence
British Defence Secretary Dr John Reid is prepared to consider an in-house, negotiated alternative to the current privatisation plan in order to achieve the necessary savings required by the Ministry of Defence in Gibraltar’s Naval Base, the Chronicle has learned.

Dr Reid’s willingness to look at union counter-proposals to the present MoD plan has raised the possibility of a conciliatory outcome to the dispute over job cuts at the base.

In a meeting on Monday, Dr Reid made clear to senior UK union officials from the Transport and General Workers’ Union and its white-collar counterpart, Prospect, that the MoD still needs to achieve significant savings in Gibraltar, as it does elsewhere, informed sources in the UK said.

He told union leaders that “contractorisation”, the military word for privatisation, was still on the agenda and that the tendering process would continue. But, in a move that represents a marked shift in approach from recent months, the minister added that he was open to considering an in-house proposal from workers currently employed in the base, the same sources said.

It is not yet clear what form an in-house option might take but the minister, who paid tribute during the meeting to the loyalty of the Gibraltarian workforce over the years, is shortly expected to provide details in writing of what he is willing to explore.

Both the unions and the MoD described Monday’s meeting as very positive and useful.
Nothing can be ruled out at this stage and every option still remains open, but both sides are now talking.

“Dr Reid described the talks as ‘very useful’ and will be responding in detail to the points raised by the TGWU and Prospect very shortly with a view to reaching an agreed way forward,” the MoD said in a statement yesterday.

TGWU District Officer Luis Montiel said that he remained in close, continuous contact with UK union national officers. He added that local union officials would play a central role in preparing any counter proposals to the MoD’s current plan. And he stressed that, despite the change in mood in the long-running dispute, the union would continue with its legal challenge against the MoD.

Today, a delegation of local union officials will call on Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister, to discuss the latest developments.

Mr Montiel said the delegation would also urge Mr Caruana to press on with legislative and administrative measures aimed at mitigating the impact of the MoD proposal.

In his recent budget speech, Mr Caruana said the government would “legislate and take whatever administrative action was possible and lawful to ensure that the socio-economic consequences to Gibraltar from such privatisation are minimised as far as possible".

Related Links:

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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