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Picardo looks to heal GHA rift, but rejects Unite’s May Day claims

May Day 01-05-2018 (Photo John Bugeja)

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has hit back at claims made by Unite the Union UK official Howard Beckett that nurses locally are paid 20% less than their UK counterparts, insisting the opposite is true.

According to Mr Picardo, nurses employed in Gibraltar have actually benefitted from increases in salaries of generally between 5% to 45% when compared to NHS UK.

This comes after Mr Beckett, in a May Day address in Casemates Square, urged action on Gibraltar’s “measly” minimum wage, and insisted that nurses here were paid 20% less than in the UK.

This also comes as Mr Picardo said he looks forward to meeting with Unite the Union representatives from the GHA following last week’s industrial action.

“I want to set the record straight in meetings directly with them,” Mr Picardo said in a statement yesterday.

This comes after Unite said it would write directly to Mr Picardo requesting an urgent meeting with him and all the representatives from across the Health Sector in order to discuss the issues which were strongly raised by Unite members at last week’s mass-walkout.

Mr Picardo underscored that he will recommit to the fact that there will not be any privatisation in the GHA by the back door or at all.

“Since we have been elected there have been more people directly employed in the GHA than ever before,” he said.

“We inherited 868 people directly employed. This week I have sent an Estimates Book to the Parliament which provides for 1,100 to be directly employed by the GHA in this financial year.”

This, he said, is the opposite direction of travel to privatisation.

Flagging comments made by Howard Beckett, Unite Assistant General Secretary, at the recent May Day Rally, in respect of nurses pay, Mr Picardo said that nurses employed in Gibraltar have actually benefitted from increases in salaries of generally between 5% to 45% when compared to NHS UK.

“Salaries for all nursing grades at the GHA have increased year-on-year in line with the RPI since ‘Agenda for Change’ was introduced in 2010, a stark comparison to UK nurses who have had wages either frozen or capped to 1% since 2010.”

“I agree with Unite’s campaign for better wages in the National Health Service in the UK.”

“I believe that the UK Government should have been paying increases of at least the rate of inflation, as we have been doing in Gibraltar since we have been elected.”

“I declare my solidarity with UK health workers and Unite in their claims in the UK in this respect.”

In Gibraltar, the average increases in salary since 2010 amount to a total of 20.5 % over the last seven years, Mr Picardo said.

On the other hand, he claimed, NHS earnings, on average, have only increased by 8% since 2010, well below inflation rates of 15% (CPI) and 21.3% (RPI), over the same period.

“By way of example, an entry level midwife in 2010 who would have earnt £26,437 pa in Gibraltar and the UK, is now earning £31,655 pa in Gibraltar, whilst in UK a direct counterpart in 2017 would be earning £22,128.”

“Also note that this comparison is based on basic pay only, where GHA staff automatically progress through the scales annually,” he said adding that NHS staff progress only subject to satisfactory performance reviews.

The comparison does not take into account the locally paid allowances.

“As an example, a Staff Nurse would receive in addition to basic pay a minimum of £7205 per annum in allowances. I will provide Unite colleagues with a table showing the difference in pay between their members and UK counterparts which illustrates these differences.”

“Finally, I want to address Howard’s statement that the minimum wage in Gibraltar is “measly”. In fact, the Minimum Wage in Gibraltar has gone up 20% in the time I have been Chief Minister.

“Additionally, Gibraltar can be proud that the Minimum Wage – first introduced by the GSLP in 1988 - is now the eighth highest in Europe, according to the publically available information.”

“In fact, the Gibraltar Minimum Wage is more than double the equivalent in ten Member States of the European Union.”

“I want to continue to work constructively with Unite and to build on the strong work both my Government and the Union are doing in delivering for working people.”

“In doing so, I think that the facts are the most important basis on which to build and to strengthen our relationship.”

“I therefore very much look forward to meeting with the GHA representatives of Unite and to meeting more widely with those of the Unite Executive who have pending Industrial Relations issues with the Government.”

“Together we are the strongest guarantee for working people against the cuts and austerity proposed by others.”

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