A formal agreement was yesterday signed by the Gibraltar Government and the teacher’s union Gibraltar NASUWT to allow time for teachers to carry out union duties.
The Facilities Agreement sets out the main aims of both the government and the union in working together in the interests of the children and young people.
The paperwork was signed by Gibraltar NASUWT president Victor Gonzalez and the Government Chief Secretary Darren Grech at a press conference held at No.6 yesterday.
The move was welcomed by Mr Gonzalez who said there are “a lot of things happening in education right now”, and teachers and the Department of Education are working toward “common goals”.
He added that the department has been accommodating in allowing teachers time for union work.
Mr Gonzalez added: “This formalises the recognition of the union representatives, in particular, needing this facility time to carry out the very important work we are carrying out in conjunction with the department.”
He said that although there have been facility agreements in the past, it has never been in a formal setting, Mr Gonzalez said.
This, he said, “sets out in writing the parameters of time agreed” to allow the union representatives to do their work.
Gibraltar NASUWT is not just involved with local schools, but it works with the Cross Frontier Group, and with Brexit on the horizon, the union represents Gibraltar’s voice at the Interregional Trade Union Council, and visits to politicians in the UK and Brussels.
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Education Minister Dr John Cortes were both present at the signing.
Mr Picardo said: “We have been able to reach an agreement with the teachers unions in respect of facility time which will enable those who are members of the committee, in particular, to carry out their functions in a way that is better understood by both sides.”
“This will give the flexibility that is required.”
Weekly and monthly meetings are held between teachers and the Department of Education and the union, with various workshops and think tanks set up to raise concerns.
“There is great engagement, we are working closely and moving forward and having signed a facility agreement today is a tremendous milestone,” Dr Cortes added.
This will help to “enhance and improve” education in Gibraltar, he added.
Government responds to GSD
The Government yesterday responded to the GSD’s statement calling for more constructive engagement with teachers to address their “discontent”.
Education Minister Dr John Cortes said this was a “complete misrepresentation from the GSD” and added that they were “jumping on a bandwagon” following a single delay claim.
This has since been dealt with and sorted out, Dr Cortes added.
He said: “Whether you agree with our policies or not, the evidence is there that teachers are closely involved in driving the development of education in Gibraltar.”
He added that the Department of Education is working closely together with the teachers’ unions to work on all claims being put forward.
“I know how hard they are working in particular this year with all the improvements that are coming,” Dr Cortes added.
“I see it for myself, and I am grateful, as the whole community is.”
“They are not being ignored, quite the opposite, and they will continue to be involved at all stages and at all levels.”
“Teachers, together with the children they teach, will be the greatest beneficiaries of the improvements that we are developing together.”
Gibraltar NASUWT president Victor Gonzalez said the GSD’s comments were “not true”.
He said consultations, working groups and think tanks among teachers and the department have been held on a weekly and monthly basis which has improved representation.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja