Claims by white collar union GGCA that the Gibraltar Government is “breaking the civil service” are “utter nonsense”, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.
He was reacting after Wendy Cumming, the union’s president, recently questioned assumptions made by Sir Joe Bossano about the performance of the public sector.
Sir Joe, the Minister for Economic Development, had underscored the government’s belief that a more efficient public service is needed.
But Ms Cumming countered that more focus was needed on training and succession planning for a “demoralised and despondent” civil service.
Questioned on the exchange, Mr Picardo said the number of civil servants had grown by 389 between 2010/11 and 2017/18, an increase of 20% to 2,299.
He added too that the percentage of vacancies was also down from 7.5% at the end of the last GSD administration to 6% now.
Public sector salaries had also increased, with the annual payroll for the civil service amounting to £90m, or £7.5m a month.
“It is madness to suggest that an organisation with less percentage vacancies, with increased salaries going up above inflation each year and which has grown by 20% is being ‘destroyed’,” Mr Picardo said.
“Anybody who suggests that we’re trying to do anything other than support the civil service doesn’t know what they’re about.”
Mr Picardo echoed Sir Joe’s position and said it was in the best interests of everyone in this community for the civil service and public sector to operate more efficiently.
“That’s not an attack on anyone,” he said.
“If you consider a call for efficiency an attack, then I think you’re in the wrong frame of mind.”
He added too that a drive for greater efficiency did “not necessarily” imply a smaller civil service in the future.
“That’s not what we’re talking about, we’re talking about a more efficient civil service” the Chief Minister said.
“We’re committed to the manning level of the civil service, so we’re not talking of reducing numbers.”
Mr Picardo also acknowledged union concerns on agency workers, adding that he stood by commitments made last year to end the use of agency workers in the public sector.
“I just haven’t been able to implement that because it has been such a difficult six months,” he said.
“But a lot of work has been done behind the scenes to enable me to implement that shortly.”