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Chief Secretary praises public sector’s ‘exceptional response’ to virus crisis, but warns future will require ‘more for less’

Gibraltar’s civil service has stepped up to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis, Chief Secretary Darren Grech said on Wednesday, as he underscored the importance of maintaining this stance in the gradual transition from lockdown in the coming weeks and months.

Speaking at the daily press conference in No.6 Convent Place, Mr Grech said the civil service must be prepared to “do more for less” as Gibraltar prepares for the challenges of post-pandemic life.

“It is not over yet, and we need to keep going in the interest of Gibraltar,” he said. “There will be difficult times ahead and we will have to work more, we will have to work longer hours, across a range of departments and areas, as and when called to do so. Certainly the work might be different to what we are used to.”

“It may involve doing something outside our normal duties.”

“The puzzle assembled post-Covid-19 will be very different to what we had before.”

“We will need to get used doing more for less, yes, for less.”

“I am asking my civil servants to do this for our community, for our families and friends, and for Gibraltar.”

Mr Grech explained that as a result of the changes introduced to the functioning of the civil service to meet the demands of the global health emergency, the majority of civil servants had “raised their game to their maximum potential.”

“When we’re out of Covid-19 we will need to keep that level, we cannot afford to go down,” he added.

“We will need to keep that level because we have got to deliver a service with provision to get Gibraltar PLC back on track.”

“It’s human nature to concentrate always on the negative but the majority of people have risen to the occasion.”

“They have worked tremendously, they have gone the extra mile, nothing has been too difficult and to these people I am extremely grateful.”

But in conceding too that a minority in the public sector had not stepped up, he added: “In any walk of life you’re always going to get naughty people, there are naughty people out there in the private sector, there are naughty people within the civil service, a minority who have tried to go under the radar and take advantage of the situations that we are setting up in order to deal with the pandemic.”

“They know who they are. And I know who they are.”

“And I'm just asking for them to step up and be counted. This situation merits that they do and if they don’t, like everything in life, there are consequences,” Mr Grech said.

“But that’s a negative, it’s been wonderful and there are a lot of stories of people who have done tremendous work.”

Additionally, Mr Grech explained that some of the changes introduced to the operational status of aspects of the civil service will become permanent if they enhance the quality of the work of the public sector.

Government services continue to run, he said, and critical departments have also diverted core services online.

Online links and cloud-based solutions between organisations had been reinforced, with many civil servants carrying out their work remotely from home or working in shifts in those offices that remained open.

Other public sector workers had been redeployed in support of frontline personnel, in a mammoth effort impacting 5,000 employees and coordinated by human resources managers and staff.

He said that had allowed him and senior managers to see the system function under immense strain, highlighting not just areas of performance but also where there is a need for change or additional resilience.

“There are definitely significant changes needed to improve the public service in Gibraltar,” he said.

“The public service will emerge stronger and more effective with temporary measures such as the use of cloud-based communications and services becoming much more permanent in the near future.”

Mr Grech thanked the three unions - Unite, GGCA and NASUWT Gibraltar - for their “help and guidance” throughout this response.

“Moving forward we will have to rely on our very close relationship in order to drive through with the change that is necessary in order to make it out of the woods,” he said.

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