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Government IT workers walk out in dispute over cybersecurity roles

Photos by Johnny Bugeja

Staff from the Information Technology and Logistics Department (IT&LD), backed by their union GGCA, walked out of their posts on Friday following a breakdown in talks with the Gibraltar Government in a dispute over cybersecurity roles.

Speaking at the protest held outside the offices of Digital Services Minister Albert Isola in Europort, GGCA president Wendy Cumming said the minister was “gaslighting” workers by claiming there was no dispute.

The GGCA said the row had been dragging on for six years and that the Government could not claim this was not the case.

“I think that we would be happy to continue negotiating and to continue discussing, but I think that the relationship with Minister Isola has broken down,” she said.

“If you come to someone with concerns or raising an issue and the person says, ‘actually, that the issue doesn't exist’, it's worse than then saying, ‘Okay, I see what you mean, but I disagree with you on this, and I disagree with you on that’.”

“Because it's a bit like gaslighting, it's almost saying, ‘no, no, there is no dispute’.”

Ms Cumming said the union and workers had highlighted the need for additional resources and would welcome a seat on the Policy Committee that guides the government’s cybersecurity structure, but claimed this had been refused.

For the GGCA, this means neither the union or its members would have a voice in shaping core issues such as security operations or migration to the cloud.

“In fact, there has been no resolution on anything, even on the resources issue,” said.

“They said, ‘Oh, send us an email, and we'll consider it’. So there's been no agreement on anything.”

Instead, “there was a complete denial that we were in dispute and a demand at the end that we withdraw the dispute, even though none of the things had been addressed.”

Before the walkout, IT&LD GGCA members went on “go slow” and stopped answering phones.

The GGCA president said that responsibilities had been removed from the department even while the union was negotiating over the summer.

Ms Cummings said most of the department’s £18m budget was being used on outsourcing to private companies, in effect undermining civil servants.

“This policy of undermining the department to come to an end,” Ms Cumming said.

Ms Cummings said the union and its members were carefully considering their next steps, because “this is not a membership that wants to inconvenience anyone.”

“But it gets to a point,” she added.

“It's six years. It's a long, long time for people to be reasonable.”

“So now we're considering our options to avoid escalation.”

“We're considering them very carefully.”

Earlier this week the Gibraltar Government rejected the union’s position and said there had always been “full consultation” with IT&LD.

The Government said it considered there was no dispute with IT&LD or their members.

It said the three points raised by the GGCA had been resolved and were agreed at a meeting on November 22 between the workforce, the government and the GGCA.

According to the government, a new and further request was raised relating to the composition of the Policy Committee. It said the statement that IT&LD was not represented on Policy Committees was “untrue”.

The Government said it believed the department was best represented by the Head of the Department, the Director of IT&LD, “who has all the experts available to him in his Department to give advice to him on all areas under discussion”.

It said the Government was happy to consult further and consider representations on expanding the Policy Committee, “but not in the context of industrial action”.

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