Contract transfer leaves carers in employment limbo
A group of carers at the John Mackintosh elderly residential wing have expressed deep concern about their employment future after they turned up for work yesterday only to be sent back home.
The workers, 31 carers and 12 qualified nurses, are employees of Grand Home Care, the company that has just lost the contract to provide care services at the wing to MedDoc Healthcare.
MedDoc Healthcare took over the running of the wing yesterday and said it would provide employment to all the workers in question once these were no longer Grand Home Care employees.
But the transfer of the contract has not gone smoothly for this group of employees, who yesterday met at the offices of Unite the Union to seek advice on what to do next.
Unite official Gillian Birkett said the situation was “very delicate” and the union had sought legal advice on behalf of its members.
“At the moment, we don't know exactly what is going to happen to 40 of our members who have no jobs to go to...” she said.
“We are consulting, negotiating and trying to find a solution for our members.”
“Unite is going to work in favour of one company or the other or government in this matter. We are only looking after the interests of our members.”
“There are people here who haven't slept for days. They are feeling physically sick with not knowing what's going to happen.”
A spokesman for MedDoc Healthcare said efforts to delay the contract start date to ensure an orderly handover had fallen through at the last minute.
While MedDoc had been ready to step in, it appears the Grand Home Care employees were only informed at the very last minute, he said.
“We have vacancies for them but we can’t employ until they get released by Grand Home Care,” he said.
A spokesman for Grand Home Care said the company believed the employees were covered by the Transfer of Undertakings Act, which protects their rights under law.
But it said efforts to reach agreement between all the stakeholders had failed.
“Government’s response to this was to transfer a further 14 members of Grand Home Care to the John Mackintosh facility with no discussion or warning, in the knowledge that another 14 people would lose their jobs,” a spokesman for the company said.
“Grand Home Care is now assessing the situation and will know the full repercussions of today’s actions by Monday.”
“In consultation with Unite, Grand Home Care agreed to pay the staff till 8a.m. Saturday, but the loss of the contract has resulted in job losses, with uncertainty going forward.”
Unite said part of the problem arose from the fact that the transfer of the contract from one company to another had been announced by the Gibraltar Government without consultation or advance notice.
“These workers are excellent professionals who give a lot of time to our community,” said Unite’s Luis Gonzalez.
“Things have got to be consulted. You just can’t go out there and out of the blue say that one company is taking over without looking at the picture, and that is both the patient and the staff.”
Christian Duo, another Unite official, added: “We are extremely concerned about the welfare of the workers.”
“Even though they have guaranteed jobs, some could find themselves out of work for a few days before another contractor takes over. That is unacceptable.”
“We have to get this right so that it doesn't happen again.”
A spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said Health Minister Neil Costa would hold a meeting with Unite and representatives of the employees on Monday to assess the situation.
“The Government is entirely confident that MedDoc will effect a smooth takeover of the contract at John Mackintosh wing,” the spokesman added.
Yesterday patients at the John Mackintosh wing were cared for by MedDoc Healthcare nurses and staff from the Elderly Residential Services.
The spokesman for MedDoc Healthcare said the company’s nurses had been Grand Home Care employees until recently, which ensured a seamless transition in the provision of care.
“They are all familiar faces for the patients,” he said.
“There is no issue at all with the continuity or quality of care.”