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Unite steps up GHA action as nurses back midwives in row over ‘insecure contracts’

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

Unite the Union stepped up its selective industrial action in the GHA on Friday, with nursing staff supporting colleagues in the maternity department over a row about insecure short-term contracts.

“Members across healthcare in Gibraltar have had enough of being praised publicly, but behind closed doors are kept on a tight-rope in terms of their employment within the organisation,” said Sam Hennessy, Regional Officer for Unite the Union.

“We have had reports of many frontline workers who are regularly without copies of their own contractual terms and living with the extreme insecurity of not knowing when or whether they will be renewed or terminated.”

“This level of insecure employment needs to be driven out of the public sector and no worker should have to contend with such unknowns in relation to their occupation.”

Midwives at St Bernard’s Hospital began working out of uniform last week in protest at the GHA’s decision not to renew three gynaecologists’ contracts.

In explaining that decision, the GHA cited clinical concerns but Unite rejected this and said it was no coincidence that the three gynaecologists are all approaching four years’ service with the GHA, at which point they would be able to seek a declaration of permanency of employment under the fixed-term worker regulations.

On Tuesday, nursing staff at St Bernard’s and the PCC agreed to ballot for industrial action in support of their colleagues, with 98.4% voting in favour.

“The ballot related to the issues of support for their colleagues in maternity concerning the non-renewal of gynaecologist contracts, the extensive use of insecure and short-term contracts across nursing, the lack of recognition and respect of nursing staff and to take a stand against improper employment practices used by the GHA and Ministry of Health to prevent workers from obtaining rights under law,” Unite said.

As of 8am on Friday, nursing staff have been carrying out their duties out of uniform and will do so until further notice.

“Members have grown frustrated by the constant delays and excuses to not advance industrial matters and come to workable, practical solutions in the interests of healthcare staff and the patients they care for,” Mr Hennessy added.

“Too many departments continue to be let down by an employer uninterested in the welfare and morale of their own staff.”

“We will continue to support our brave hardworking nursing members throughout this dispute to achieve greatly improved employment and workplace practices that are desperately needed in the Health and Care Sector.”

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