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Unite says better offer from GibAir could avoid industrial action

Archive photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Unite the Union on Tuesday said it has written to Bland Group urging management back to the negotiating table to provide “a more equitable offer” ahead of GibAir staff commencing industrial action at Gibraltar International Airport on July 27.

The union said it is waiting for the company to return with an improved offer so that they can “potentially call off the action”.

GibAir staff are to “undertake action short of strike action” with “go slow measures” and in non-uniform, with delays expected for passengers travelling on the day.

This comes after a breakdown in negotiations that the union said will leave staff “closer to the minimum wage” and “weakened” working conditions.

News of the industrial action was revealed by Bland Group on Monday, which said it was notified by Unite the Union over the weekend after “just two meetings” to discuss a pay claim that was formally tabled on July 4.

The company claimed the union had been “unreasonable” to move towards industrial action at “such short notice”, given its own willingness to engage.

But Unite’s Regional Officer, Sam Hennessy, told the Chronicle: “We have asked for Bland Group to provide a better offer so that we can potentially consider calling off the action and postponing it, but they haven’t responded to us yet with an improved offer so unfortunately we are where we are.”

“This is in the interests of both staff and passengers since the strong mandate given by members in their ballot.”

In a statement, the union said it submitted a pay claim in May 2023 to the Bland Group after rounds of negotiations, “which were delayed due to the employer not wanting to commence pay negotiation until July”.

“Staff at GibAir have been offered an unconsolidated lump sum of £1200, no consolidated increase, and an ‘agreement in principle’ to review numeration of those who have undertaken additional training,” the union said in a statement.

“The Bland Group also wishes to reduce the current Bradford Factor calculation thresholds which can potentially cause more staff to be unfairly penalised through a draconian system of trying to deter them from taking sick leave, of which is within their statutory rights as workers.”

Mr Hennessy told the Chronicle that this is based on “how you take your sick days”, adding that someone who takes five one-off sick days will have a higher score than someone taking two weeks off.

“We have had issues where staff have had anxiety issues and they are worried about their Bradford Factor Score,” Mr Hennessy said.

“So, they are anxious and worried and don’t want to get pulled into a disciplinary based on their Bradford Factor score, and dealing with that as well.”

“The company wants to reduce this score, but we actually want the removal of this.”

“The first reason being that it was brought in without any consultation with the union with bargaining rights for the staff.”

“We want to have it removed or increased, but Bland want to have it decreased which is going in completely the wrong direction as far as we are concerned.”

Unite said this was presented despite the union “previously raising concerns on how this measure has been implemented within the company”.

“This current offer would place the majority of staff earnings even closer to the minimum wage, people who continue to find it increasingly difficult to cope with high inflation and the cost of living as well as weakening current terms and conditions,” the union stressed.

“In a ballot conducted from last week, 93% of Unite members voted to reject the current offer and to take action short of strike action and action including strike action.”

The public are being urged to make suitable travel arrangements due to the potential delays that will be caused as a result of the action arising from the current circumstances in negotiations.

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