HM Government of Gibraltar notes Unite the Union’s misleading and woefully inaccurate Press Release in which General Secretary Sharon Graham has clearly been misled into calling for, among other things, ‘a new deal’ for the health and care sector in Gibraltar. Ms Graham’s comments are clearly based on misinformation unfairly fed to her by some in Gibraltar and elsewhere who wish to use the GHA for their own, narrow union and party political agendas.
The statements from Ms Graham are based on such inaccurate information that the Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP, as Minister for Industrial Relations, has written to Ms Graham, seeking a meeting directly with her, to ensure that she is fully aware of the reality on the ground in Gibraltar and the GHA in particular.
The Chief Minister said: “Ms Graham’s remarks might not be out of place in Grantham or Granchester, but they certainly are not relevant to Gibraltar where our local workforce’s salary and terms and conditions are the envy of any NHS clinicians or staff members. The statement by Ms Graham is another misleading and inaccurate reflection of the objective facts by UK based union official who is unaware of the realities on the ground in Gibraltar.
It is as erroneous a statement as that made by Howard Beckett, another Unite Official, when he claimed on a May Day that workers in Gibraltar were ‘worse off’ than those in the UK, when the complete opposite is true by any objective measure.
In Gibraltar the Government has not cut back on services or on pay in the past 10 years, as has been the case in the United Kingdom; we have almost DOUBLED investment in health services. Indeed, in the past 10 years the Government has directly and permanently employed more and more staff at the GHA, not less, as is the case in the UK. There has been no policy of austerity in the GHA as there has been in the NHS on Unite’s watch in the UK.
Furthermore, HM Government has already clearly demonstrated its desire to depoliticise the Gibraltar Health Authority, empowering the Director General to address matters that were previously dealt with by Ministers and Ministries, including matters concerning Industrial Relations.
I nonetheless cannot let this statement by the General Secretary of Unite go unanswered and I am so concerned by the depth of its inaccuracies that I have sought a meeting with Ms Graham to share with her my view of how well we are funding the GHA, principally in order to enable it to recruit and retain the best people on the best terms and conditions – much better than those Unite has negotiated for them in the UK.
Unite’s insistence on marching to No.6 highlights that the message on de-politicising the GHA not yet hit home, that Ms Graham’s call to support a march to No.6 falls foul of this de-politicisation agenda, and that our very own opposition parties are happy to jump on the union’s obvious desire to re-politicise GHA in order to further enhance their own party political ambitions.
Health and care are important facets of our public infrastructure and I will make sure that the Gibraltar Health Authority will continue to have the resources it needs to best ensure the heath service for all Gibraltarians and to provide dignified jobs for those working within health and care, as is already the case.
The Director General has genuinely opened and continues to keep open his doors to dialogue and positive and pragmatic engagement with the relevant unions and its representatives.
Today’s march does not change this posture, nor does it assist it in any way.
The statement from Ms Graham fails to reflect the reality on the ground and will inevitably be regretted by Unite’s leadership in the United Kingdom when they understand the real facts on the ground and the MASSIVE positive differences in salaries and terms and conditions which their members in Gibraltar benefit from and which Ms Graham and others in Unite’s leadership are clearly NOT aware of.
The Government continues to genuinely and sincerely value and support all and each and every one of the employees of the Gibraltar Health Authority, regardless of union affiliation or attendance at the demonstration, which is their democratic right.”