Friday, September 02, 2005

Ball is in MoD court, says Montiel

Future of naval base labour force

TGWU District Officer Luis Montiel has declared that they are waiting for the Ministry of Defence in UK “to come back to us” following the meeting held in early August on the future of the naval base contractorisation plans.

At the time, the Unions submitted a proposal seeking to influence the intended privatisation process and minimise the functions that needed to be market-tested.

Although Mr Montiel declined to spell out the details of such proposal, it is one which aims to retain as many of the 300 directly employed labour force that currently deliver the support functions that includes manning of the nuclear submarine berth.

In an interview with the Chronicle yesterday Mr Montiel said the Unions had raised a number of important issues at Command level “with regard to the scope of the areas that should be market-tested.”

According to Mr Montiel, UK Defence Secretary Dr John Reid had now withdrawn from the previous position that contractorisation was not negotiable, and agreed to give the unions the opportunity to evaluate in-house whether the savings required by MoD could be achieved.

Mr Montiel said:

“The MoD has every right to make things cheaper through efficiency savings and redundancies.

But what we do not accept is that it should relinquish its role as ‘good’ employer that it has had in Gibraltar since the 1960’s.

This is a significant political issue for Gibraltar.”

The District Officer continued saying that the matter is with the Defence Secretary but as soon as the answers to their questions are obtained, “we will be able to progress in setting up and cooperating in a public sector comparator process.”

The MoD had originally planned to privatise the entire support function consisting of a 300 strong workforce that would be transferred to the incoming Infrastructure Service Provider (ISP).

For its part the unions have made a counter proposal arguing that with changes in working practices, support functions including the nuclear berth could be carried out in-house with directly employed workers and meet the MoD’s efficiency savings target.

“We did manage to persuade Dr Reid to withdraw from what had been a ‘fait accompli’ privatisation of the support functions and in effect modify their timetable,” said Mr Montiel.

The Unions will not object to participate in a public sector comparator process, and even work with an ISP so long as the employees’ MoD terms and conditions of employment are protected, although the District Officer has given no indication of the numbers of workers he has in mind.

Mr Montiel said the unions wanted to influence the process of what functions should be market tested, arguing that if a proper consultation process had taken place from the outset, they would have had this right anyway.

£4M Savings

Meanwhile informed sources have said the TGWU is confident that with its own proposals for efficiency savings it would be possible to achieve annual reductions of £4m from the MoD’s general annual budget of £44m.

The MoD target is for a £5m annual reduction of this budget over a five-year period which would slash it down to £19m.

Meanwhile non-union sources have suggested that around 200 employees out of the total MOD workforce of 1,060 would be prepared to consider a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Membership Controversy

On a separate tack, Mr Montiel has denied claims that TGWU membership figures have dwindled dramatically in the past few years.

In the 1990’s membership stood at approximately 7,000 workers. Mr Montiel supplied evidence that membership currently stands at 3,749 and not below 3,000 as suggested by ‘political’ sources.

However Mr Montiel did concede that numbers had not grown but remained static for several years.

He also pointed out that Gibraltar’s economic situation had changed substantially since the 90’s when the Union was organised to service the needs of the public sector that represented the bulk of the membership.

Now, with the rapid growth of the private sector it was necessary to attract greater numbers of these workers into the organisation. For this purpose, the TGWU was undergoing a restructure process to be more in tune with the needs of the private sector. Mr Montiel added:

“We are represented in all the main areas of the economy.

Our membership represents under a third of the established working population, and if this number were to be transposed to the UK we would have around 9 million members.

Although not present in great numbers in the private sector our membership is spread to most of the new areas in the economy. The problem is that we have not made the inroads we would wish.”


Related Links:

06 August 2005 - Discussions continue but prospects for agreement improve

02 August 2005 - MoD and Unions hold “inconclusive” talks in UK

30 July 2005 - Unions express discontent with Reid “way forward” proposals

28 July 2005 - House approves bill to enshrine court ruling into statutes

21 July 2005 - Caruana spells out conditions for settlement at Naval Base

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

19 April 2005 Unions declare a united front on MoD Contractorisation

Gibraltar News Online Contractorisation Poll

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