Govt’s ‘Digital Services’ project sparks dispute with GGCA
The GGCA has declared a dispute with the Gibraltar Government in respect of its membership within the Information Technology and Logistics Department, citing a series of secondments from the department.
In a statement the white-collar union said it felt it had no choice but to commence with industrial action.
The union said the main contention underpinning this dispute relates to the indefinite "secondment" of four ITLD officers to the government’s 'Digital Services' project to carry out work related to eGovernment, and the ‘intended backfill’ of these seconded posts being outsourced privately.
According to the GGCA, this has served to “undermine” the department’s role in IT-related decisions.
Additionally, the union said the move has promoted new management led by other public servants, and with expertise previously sought in-house now being outsourced to external contractors.
But the GGCA’s claims were strongly refuted by the Gibraltar Government, which insisted there was no dispute with the Information Technology and Logistics Department.
The government said all the moves that the union was complaining about had been agreed beforehand with senior management at the department.
According to the GGCA, staff at the department had been sidelined as the government pushed ahead with ‘Digital Services’, a major project to analyse core business processes and automate functions where possible.
At the moment, personnel on the Digital Services project are working with the GHA, the Employment Service and the Tax Office to bring 32 existing services online.
But the GGCA said the work should have been carried out by the ITLD team.
“Rather than engage with ITLD and provide the necessary resources to ensure that the eGovernment project could be delivered in its entirety by the department, 'Digital Services' has also been given far more resourcing - by way of funding and ministerial support - to achieve the eGovernment aims of the current administration,” the union said.
The GGCA said it feels that the Government is breaching both the transfer and promotions aspects of a Revised Agreement which has been in force since January 2015 and states very clearly that "staff transfer and promotions into and out of the department are not allowed".
“These transfers out of the department have severely depleted the complement of the ITLD, as these officers have left a large gap in the department, which is struggling to meet targets and complete its day to day business…thereby setting ITLD up to fail.”
According to the union it initially raised these matters in December 2016 following the transfer of the first ITLD officer.
In January 2017, an email was sent to Albert Isola, as the Minister responsible for eGovernment, requesting that the GGCA be involved and consulted in any future changes to ITLD.
“These requests were ignored and a further three transfers were made to the detriment of ITLD services and obligations,” the GGCA said.
“Furthermore the ITLD staff, all of whom are represented by the GGCA, were called into a meeting with Mr Isola on the 8th March 2018. Trade union representation was denied even though it was strongly requested.”
“At the meeting, in the absence of trade union representation, the ITLD membership were intimidated by Mr Isola, who told them that eGovernment was a ‘train’ and anyone who presented an obstacle to the train would be ‘moved aside by the train.’”
“The officers were also told to "go back to the rain" at the end of the meeting,” the union claimed.
“All of these matters were set out in a lengthy letter from the GGCA President to the Chief Minister dated 4th April 2018.”
“As after three months no reply was forthcoming, a ballot of the ITLD membership was held on the 5th July 2018 and it was unanimously decided that a dispute should be declared that same day.”
“A letter of reply was then received from the Chief Minister on the 9th July 2018, but unfortunately the issues were not recognised and many of the concerns raised were not addressed in his letter.”
“Therefore, a reply was sent to the Chief Minister on the 13th July 2018, which has not yet been acknowledged.”
“The GGCA feels that, in spite of many attempts to resolve these matters amicably, there is now no option but to commence industrial action.”
The Gibraltar Government refuted the GGCA’s suggestions and insisted there was no dispute with the department as all the steps that the union had complained of had been discussed in detail with the senior management of ITLD and agreed with them.
The Government said the secondments from ITLD are temporary for the implementation of eGovernment, and that this had also been discussed and agreed with the senior management of ITLD.
“Outsourcing of technical work is, and has always been, carried out by ITLD and the outsourcing now being complained of by the GGCA is in fact being managed by ITLD,” it added.
The Government said it has offered to meet with the GGCA and ITLD but will not do so whilst they are on industrial action.