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Chief Secretary sets out plans for civil service reform, drawing union flak

Photos by Johnny Bugeja

Plans for a major reform of the civil service drew flak from the GGCA on Tuesday, amid claims the white-collar union had not been informed or consulted on the move.
The reform was announced by Chief Secretary Darren Grech in a GBC interview last week, with more details set out in a government statement yesterday.
“I mentioned last week that we were embarking on a new journey, one that will transform the public service and allow us to cultivate those individuals whose work underpins all that we do,” Mr Grech said.
“The potential future Chief Secretaries and Public Service leaders could already be here within our ranks.”
“We need to ensure that we achieve the expectations of everyone who interacts with the Public Service and it is true that change is needed. It is also true that some Public Services need to be improved.”
“I can say without hesitation that we have the right people to deliver, they just need to have the opportunities and the infrastructure to achieve this potential and lead the change together.”
“The Future Leaders programme is a critical component in this new phase for Gibraltar’s Public Service, as we can potentially remove some of the bureaucratic barriers that have held back some of the best candidates.”
“The course has been designed in partnership with the University of Gibraltar and King’s College London so as to open it up to the widest possible spectrum of staff.”
“It will bring modern best practice to the fore, and in delivering this programme we will be working closely with the unions that represent public sector workers to ensure that we bring out the very best in our service. This is just the beginning.”
But the announcement drew immediate criticism from the GGCA.
“The GGCA Executive Committee has not been informed or consulted,” the union said in a statement.
“We have had absolutely no information on this initiative and have found out via the press.”
“We are shocked and disappointed by this incident, which does not bode well for future industrial relations.”
“We have asked the Chief Secretary to halt any reform measures until discussions are entered into with the GGCA.”
The GSD also reacted to the developments and said the failure to consult with the GGCA was “staggering”.
“Training initiatives are welcome as is the desire to improve the public service and better deploy resources,” said GSD Leader Keith Azopardi.
“All of that would be good. But presumably this ‘major reform programme’ was not just drafted yesterday.”
“That being the case and given that general elections were held last week why is it that the Union was not consulted on this package of possible reforms ahead of the election.”
“They should have been told what was planned by a party contesting the election. Presumably the GSLP/Liberals were aware of these proposals then.”
“For reforms to work it is important for there to be prior consultation with Unions. The GSD call on Government to ensure that constructive consultation takes place and that measures are not rammed through without proper discussion.”
Responding to the GGCA’s concerns, Mr Grech said he had made clear from the outset that the union would be consulted in the process, which had just started.
“I don't see that there can therefore be any suggestion that we are not going to consult the unions when we have, in our original statement, especially stated that we will,” he said.
“I hope that this programme of reform will be something on which we can work well with the unions, as there will be as much benefit for public servants here as there will be for the public.”
“We have received a warm and cooperative response from many individuals and representatives in the public sector and I am sure we will be able to progress matters in a collaborative manner going forward.”
The reform, which will be rolled out over several years, will include restructuring existing departmental management systems and of officers’ areas of responsibility, alongside a review of existing government premises and a digital transformation of public services.
In addition, and spearheading the initiative, there will be a new training programme for future managers within the civil service, in partnership with the University of Gibraltar and King’s College London.
The training programme will offer a bespoke course for future leaders (‘FLAMINGO’, or Future Leaders and Managers in Government), as well as a Master’s Degree-level qualification in Leadership & Management.
Training programmes will begin in early 2020 whilst the MA in Leadership & Management will be available as from September 2020.

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