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NASUWT to ballot teachers for action as Govt urges restraint

The teachers union NASUWT Gibraltar will ballot its members on whether to step up action over an unresolved pay claim, even as Chief Minister Fabian Picardo urged “restraint, responsibility and reasonableness” in order to resolve the ongoing dispute.

This comes after the union set a deadline for the Gibraltar Government to respond to its pay claim in full or to make a credible counter offer.

The deadline – May 9 – passed without Mr Picardo giving in to the union’s “massive” pay hike demands or presenting an alternative offer.

The government believes that NASUWT’s claim for salary increases of up to 46% - the starting annual salary for teachers would rise from £25,852 to £37,783 – is “neither justified nor deliverable”.

However it has not ruled out a more modest pay increase and has engaged PWC to analyse the comparisons drawn by NASUWT to teachers’ salaries in other jurisdictions, in particular Jersey, in order to prepare a counter claim.

The government acknowledges too that there has been delay in addressing the teachers’ claim as a result of Brexit, and has urged NASUWT to agree additional leeway rather than step up the dispute.

In a letter to NASUWT President Victor Gonzales delivered late on evening on May 9, Mr Picardo urged a resolution to the row and said the government expected to be in a position to make “a credible counter proposal” by the end of the first week in June.

As it stands, however, NASUWT remains unconvinced and expects to ballot its members for action short of strike action or industrial action in the coming weeks.

Contacted by the Chronicle, Mr Gonzalez declined to comment on what form any potential action could take.

In a statement the union expressed “disappointment” at having been “misled” over the promise of a counter offer.

It added that the fact still remains that, to date, proper negotiations on the pay adjustment claim have not started after a wait of over 10 months.

In a statement issued today, the Government said it will continue to work on the pay claim and to work to the timetable set out in Mr Picardo's letter to the union.

“The Government considers that the Chief Minister's response is a fair, proportionate and reasonable response in the face of a claim for massive pay rises of almost 50% for starting salaries and which would amount to an increase of almost 70% over the past seven year period,” the statement read.

“The Government notes that members of the Executive Committee of the teacher's union are on record themselves saying that their claims would be ‘foolish’ if they exceeded 40%. Yet that is the quantum of many aspects of the claim put by the teachers.”

The Government nevertheless recognised that there is a negotiation to be had on the pay claim, adding: “It is for that reason that the Government had agreed with the Executive Committee of the teacher's union to work with PWC on their claims - an agreement that teachers have subsequently withdrawn from.”

Mr Picardo said: “I want us to resolve matters to mutual satisfaction as soon as possible during the hiatus in the Brexit process.”

“But I want to be clear in saying industrial action will not help to resolve matters. All it will do is exacerbate tensions and make it harder or impossible to negotiate. That will further delay a potential positive resolution of teachers' claims.”

“So I call on teachers not to proceed with industrial action and instead to engage with us in the good faith process we are undertaking with PWC in assessing the massive pay claims made which can have enormous, knock-on effects beyond the profession.”