Concerned employees of Grand Home Care led a demonstration outside Unite the Union headquarters yesterday following news that MedDoc Healthcare had won a government contract to provide care at the John Mackintosh elderly residential wing.
The employees were seeking guarantees that staff who currently work at the wing would continue to be employed on the same terms and conditions.
Last night MedDoc Healthcare told the Chronicle that it was committed to the development and training of its staff, which were employed on “dignified pay and conditions”.
For its part, the Gibraltar Government said that while employment terms were an internal matter for the company, it would not tolerate zero-hour contracts and expected staff to be employed on a full or part-time basis.
Yesterday morning as a meeting between Grand Home Care officials and union representatives took place at Unite the Union’s headquarters, close to 100 members of staff brandished banners that read “We don’t care who our employer is, we want our rights” and “We left the union as they will not fight for us.
Grand Home Care has held the contract at the John Mackintosh facility for the past five years but in April, the care provider will be switched to MedDoc Healthcare.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with the 55 members of our staff who work there,” explained Syreeta Pocock, a Grand Home Care employee who will not be affected by the change but nonetheless joined her colleagues in solidarity at the demonstration.
“We want [them] to be absorbed under the same conditions that [they] are currently on.”
Other Grand Home Care employees told the Chronicle that they were concerned about the lack of assurances they had received over the transfer to a new care provider.
They underscored that all they ask is that they are afforded stability and protection now and in the future.
Additionally, they ask that any changes of provider be conducted as per the Employment Act which contains provisions relating to a transfer of undertakings (TUPE) so that the employees retain the right to have their contracts transferred to the new provider as if there had been no break in service.
GHC employees also seek indefinite contracts as health and social care professionals and not temporary agency workers and that zero hour contracts be used only when necessary.
They further requested a ‘dignified wage’ that reflects the work they do, their years of service and qualifications.
In a statement the Gibraltar Government explained that MedDoc had provided the lowest bid in a tendering process, wherein all known care service providers were identified and asked to submit quotes to provide care and nursing services for three floors at John Mackintosh wing.
“This has already been explained to the shareholders and directors of GHC, Artur Wasowicz and Joe Pilcher, who are nonetheless threatening to institute legal proceedings against the Government for Government’s failure to choose an option that is more expensive for the taxpayer,” the statement read.
“It has already been made clear to GHC, and it is important to state, that the successful bidder, whilst fully complying with clinical safety standards, will provide the taxpayers of Gibraltar with better value for money.”
As the successful tenderer, MedDdoc has opened vacancies and will hold two public meetings for those interested in applying.
The Government added that it does not expect that Gibraltar will experience any job losses, as the addition of a third floor to the John Mackintosh Home will require additional staff.
The terms and conditions of MedDoc’s workforce are an internal matter, it added.
“However, the Government has clearly stipulated that when it comes to nurses and carers employed to provide services to the Government, it does not tolerate zero hour contracts and expects all employees to be contracted part-time or full-time, depending on employees’ preferences and on the needs of the Elderly Residential Services,” No.6 Convent Place said.
For its part, Unite confirmed that it has met with around 60 Grand Home Care employees.
In a statement it explained it had called the meeting after unofficially receiving news last week that Grand Home Care had lost the tender to John Mackintosh Wing ward.
“Unite the Union’s interest does not lie on which company is awarded the contract but in safeguarding our member’s rights and best interests,” the statement read.
“Unite the Union fully understands the concerns and uncertainties that have been raised in today’s meeting and will therefore take whatever steps we deem necessary, whether industrial or legal action, in order to support our member’s interests.”
Last night, MedDoc Healthcare sought to reassure both users of the wing and staff too.
“We would like to reassure all current and future residents at the home, and their families, of our commitment to deliver an excellent level of care, as indeed we are already delivering at Hillsides Residential and at Bella Vista Day Centres,” the company said in a statement.
“We are strong believers in the continuity of care for our residents and service users and, in this respect, we would like to invite and encourage all current staff at the John Mackintosh Home to join our team in this exciting venture.”
MedDoc Healthcare said it had already met with 10 current staff members and planned to meet more today.
It said those who took up a job with the company would be offered stable employment and protection of their rights as employees, in line with the company’s policy.
“Moreover, we are proud of our commitment to staff devolvement and training which is provided at no cost to our employees, in the knowledge that this professional development will ultimately result in the provision of the best care possible for our residents,” the company said.
“We offer our staff dignified pay and conditions of employment which are more favourable than set out in legislation and these are reviewed regularly.”
“MedDoc also prides itself in assuring all concerned that we fully adhere to NMC and CQC standards. We are also proud of our corporate image and our staff uniforms are provided at no cost to our employees.”
“We would like to take this opportunity to express our most sincere thanks, not just to the Government of Gibraltar, but also to the community as a whole, for the trust they have placed in us and reaffirm our commitment to the delivery of a first class service.”