Govt and union at odds over MasterService contract
In the face of criticism from the GGCA over not renewing or extending its contract with MasterService, the Gibraltar Government has said it is bound by law to put the contract out to tender.
No. 6 Convent Place also underscored that no jobs are at risk as a result of this process.
This comes as the GGCA said it was “dismayed” at the development given the “extremely short notice given to the MasterService workforce, on a matter that will have a massive impact on their working lives.”
MasterService is a company that exists exclusively on the basis of a single government contract and which provides employment for 130 workers, most of whom are GGCA members.
The union explained that its Committee met with its MasterService membership last week whereby an ‘overwhelming mandate’ was given to the Committee to communicate to the general public the workforce’s desire to remain with MasterService and their strong support for their employer.
“They also conveyed a sense of betrayal at the fact that the Government of Gibraltar informed their union of this decision at such short notice,” the white collar union said in a statement.
Responding to the union, the Government explained that the current contract expires in May of this year and there will be a requirement for a new contract to be drawn up.
Under EU law, it said, it is a legal requirement that all Government contracts worth more than €134,000 must be put out to tender.
“Thus, Government is bound, by law, to enter into a new contract in the next few months and to put this out to tender,” it said.
“All companies interested in submitting a tender for the new contract, including Master Services, will be invited to do so,” No. 6 said adding that the tendering process “will, as always, be completely transparent.”
Workers’ terms and conditions are fully protected under UK, EU and Gibraltar law by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE), the Government added.
“This means that whichever company is successful in the tender process, all MasterService employees have a legal right to transfer to the new employer on their existing terms and conditions of employment and with all their existing rights intact.”
“Gibraltar’s taxpayers can be assured that the new public cleaning contract will be tendered fairly and transparently, will meet all legal requirements, will protect the rights of the current workforce and will ensure high standards of cleanliness on our streets and public areas.”
“The existing contractual terms are not favourable to the taxpayer and the Government expects that the new tender award will not be on a "cost plus" basis, which are the terms agreed by the former administration in respect of the current agreement,” the Government added.
But, the GGCA said: “Although verbal assurances were given that the staff’s employment would be protected, and their terms and conditions would be respected, the employees are concerned that the supply of cleaning services will be parcelled off to different companies, and the structure, complement, operational procedures and working practices they are all used to, and in agreement with, will cease to exist.”
The union added that in the current political climate the news has come as a “massive blow” to the workforce.
“…the GGCA’s general perception of any future change of company would be that of fixing something that isn’t broken, and negating the many years of hard work that this company has provided to our community, carrying out a wide range of hazardous and back breaking tasks that most of the general public would be loath to undertake.”
This includes cleaning of public toilets, flushing of streets to remove animal waste and dirt, cleaning roads after traffic accidents, clearing up overflows of blocked drains, and even disposing of animal carcasses, the union said.
“Whilst as a union, we are not against the general principles of competition and the tendering of services, we are concerned for the working lives of our members,” the GGCA said.
It added that a change of employer could result in the employment of the same staff but within poorer structures, operational procedures and working practices.
“Also, it is hard to conceive of any company that will compete with MasterService’s unparalleled 18 year record. MasterService is a long standing organisation of good repute which already has the equipment, training methods, organisational structures and administration that are fit for purpose and delivering a good service.”
“Clearly, if the tender process is to go ahead, it should be subject to close public scrutiny to ensure that all decisions taken on such an important matter are fair, transparent, above board and in the best interests of both the public and the workforce.”