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No end in sight in row over schools

The row over the government’s schools programme continued yesterday, amid fresh resignations from the Gibraltar Teachers’ Association [GTA] and fears that union rights were being restricted.

Last week the GTA expressed concerns that its members were not being fully consulted on government plans for new schools, prompting a backlash not just from the Gibraltar Government but from senior management at several key schools.

The GTA said it was not seeking confrontation with the government but insisted many of its members felt their views were not being taken properly into account.

But that position has put it at odds with senior school managers at both comprehensive schools, Governor’s Meadow, Bishop’s Fitzgerald and St Martin’s, who insist they are being fully consulted by the government.

Senior teachers at Notre Dame resigned from the GTA last week and yesterday, senior management and other members of staff at St Paul’s First School and Nursery followed suit.

And in a parallel development, the executive committee of the Gibraltar General and Clerical Association said it was concerned about deeper issues brought to light by the public standoff.

The white-collar union said it was not appropriate for the GGCA to comment on the educational aspects of the dispute.

But it said obstacles placed to the access of trade unions to their membership impacted on all trade unions in Gibraltar.

That was a reference to claims made by the GTA last week which said that it had been barred from meeting its members within schools, as has been the usual practice to date.

“We are concerned that limiting trade union access to members could hamper trade union effectiveness in Gibraltar and lead to an erosion of workers’ rights,” the GGCA said in a statement.

The civil service union also pointed to the ACAS 2014 publication ‘Trade Union in the Workplace’ (March 2014) publication, which states that employers should, where practical, make available to union representatives the facilities necessary for them to perform their duties efficiently and to communicate effectively with their members, other representatives and fulltime officers.

That should include accommodation for meetings, where appropriate.

In yet another development, the Gibraltar Women’s Association expressed “complete confidence” in the development process of the “very much needed” schools.

“We are aware of the comprehensive stakeholder consultation process which has gone above and beyond the standard procedure of consulting senior management, by also conducting a full study by a working group of stakeholders from all areas,” the GWA said in a statement.

“We are particularly pleased on an equality standpoint that it has included progressing into co-education of comprehensive schools and the continuation of mixed schooling.”

“We have spoken to various members of the teaching profession who were given ample opportunity to comment in various meetings hosted by the department.”

“We are satisfied that the Department of Education under the very capable hands of acting director Darren Grech and Minister John Cortes are leading the ship in the right direction and the needs of the children, who are the user group, are of paramount consideration.”

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