Unite the Union yesterday led a protest against the Care Agency’s “outrageous” decision to move 50 carers to different areas within the Dr Giraldi Home despite years of working with the same service users, amid concerns over the continuity of care.
The union was joined by the Gibraltar Disability Society in condemning the “political decision” to move staff in such a “catastrophic manner”.
But the Gibraltar Government slammed the action and described Unite’s actions as “extraordinary”.
In response to questions tabled by the Chronicle, No.6 Convent Place issued a statement insisting that the re-deployment of staff had been carefully planned over a number of weeks, adding that the decision was communicated to staff and Unite on Wednesday.
“It was also explained to staff these changes would be occurring in two weeks’ time, thereby affording affected staff member’s ample notice,” the statement read.
According to the Government, the Chief Executive of the Care Agency had explained that the service-users’ needs are always paramount and that the movement of care workers was “minimal”.
“The movement of workers is common and what is not usual is that a service-user remains with the same care-team throughout their life in care,” the Government insisted.
It added: “Movement allows for new energy, ideas, and growth, both for the carer and service-user; additionally, this may also alleviate any burn-out a carer may feel.”
But Unite official Michael Netto told the Chronicle: “Politicians have taken a decision that is definitely outrageous.”
“It consists of moving carers from the main building to the flats,” Mr Netto explained.
“It’s a strategy aimed, politically, so as not to give a section of working people in Gibraltar their rights in terms of equality and fair treatment.”
“When we talk about a vulnerable adult we talk about somebody who is dependent on a carer for three, four or five years.”
“Some are saying to me that they’ve been here in this institution for seven and nine years, suddenly you deprive a vulnerable adult of somebody whose relationship with them is as if they were the mother, the father and the brother at the same time and you suddenly move them around and you get them in another scenario.”
“Fine, I understand you want to undermine workers’ rights but what about the vulnerable adult receiving the care. There’s no logic to it,” Mr Netto said.
For its part, the Disability Society said it was concerned that the Care Agency persists in its failure to comprehend the vital importance of continuity of care.
Debbie Borastero, Chair of the Disability Society, said the group was sure that disability experts, management and staff on the ground have expressed their concerns over the detrimental effect the disruption will have on the wellbeing of service users.
“In 2014 the Society took up the issue of rolling contracts of several staff members in the disability service,” Ms Borastero said.
“We worked closely with Fabian Picardo on this issue and an outcome that was beneficial to the most important people, the service user, was achieved.”
“It appears that financial motives and the use of a majority of agency staff on zero hour contracts is how the Care Agency now wishes to run the disability services.”
“This as we all know and have seen before will lead to a regular turnover of staff and could be seen as completely unethical.”
“The Disability Society and its members will not accept the Care Agency’s apparent attempt to railroad staff and service users into a situation that could, and has been proven, to be dangerous and not in the best interests of the most important people – the service users themselves.”
In hitting back at yesterday’s action the Government claimed it was “extraordinary, if not shocking, that Unite should walk out,” because, it insisted, the Care Agency “did the right thing yesterday, to notify Care Workers of an intended redeployment.”
“This notification was in order to inform Care Workers on the intended redeployment,” it said.
“This walk out follows hard on the heels of a walk out, following the GHA advertising of 38 vacancies for Nursing Assistants.”
“Unite Gibraltar must be the only union in Europe that complain, when a government issues vacancies for public sector workers.”
“It is insulting, when in other parts of Europe, governments have imposed austerity, wage freezes and holds on recruitment,” the Government said.
“It is highly unsatisfactory, and not at all conducive to productive relationships based on trust, that Unite’s only attempt to communicate with the Chief Executive of the Care Agency occurred at around 10.30 this morning.”
“Although the Chief Executive contacted Unite to seek clarification on the reasons for the planned demonstration, and invited Unite to meet to discuss the issue, she was informed that the demonstration was going ahead in any event.”
Pic by Johnny Bugeja