Gibraltar NASUWT has again urged the Gibraltar Government to progress a pay claim submitted last June and has not ruled out industrial action.
Ahead of the May Day rally next week and against a backdrop of tense industrial relations, the teachers’ union said its members would meet next Tuesday to discuss how to progress its claim.
Union President Victor Gonzalez told GBC that teachers did not feel fairly compensated for the volume of work and stress they believe their jobs entail.
Additionally, Mr Gonzalez accused Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who is also the minister responsible for industrial relations, of not prioritising the issue.
But the Gibraltar Government said industrial action by teachers would only delay the progressing of their claim, insisting the request for a salary increase had not been rejected and was still being “seriously considered”.
It added that a great deal of work has gone and is going into this.
“It is true, however, that this claim as well as others from other unions and other matters, have been unavoidably delayed by the Brexit negotiations,” the Government said in a statement.
Following a meeting last week, the Government said it was agreed between both sides that the comparators used by the union and the work done by the Government in preparing an offer were to be looked at by PWC.
“This is proceeding, with a meeting with PWC having already taken place, but the union seems to have unilaterally withdrawn from the process and is instead considering action,” the government said.
“This is not usual while negotiations are ongoing and is only likely to serve to further delay matters, whilst continued engagement will make the negotiations easier.”
According to the claim submitted by Gibraltar NASUWT to the Government there is a “real and growing” discontent among teachers in Gibraltar with regards the salary gap that has appeared in relation to other public-sector occupations.
“In the recent past, various Government departments, authorities and agencies have negotiated pay increases in addition to the annual public-sector inflation increments,” the claim states.
“Furthermore, there are hidden elements of the successful salary negotiations of other public-sector workers that widen the salary gap with teachers further, including shift-disturbance allowances and overtime payments.”
“Teachers do not enjoy any of those benefits even though they are often expected to work beyond their normal working hours.”
“When these elements are added to the basic salary of many public-sector workers, the basic take home pay of a teacher is dwarfed by comparison.”
Yesterday, the union did not return repeated calls for comment from this newspaper.
As part of the Government’s statement the Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, insisted that it is working on the various aspects of claims put forward by the teachers.
“We are making good progress,” he said adding: “We highly value the work our teachers do and we want to ensure that we assess their claims with the respect they deserve.”
“We have already done a lot of work on the claims and are doing even more now involving one of the top accountancy firms in making the objective assessments required in order to be able to settle matters.”
“This is the right way to handle this claim and I am pleased to be working with the Chief Minister on this.”
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “We are investing more in education than probably any government in Europe per capita.”
“We recognise the essential contribution our teachers make to our society and have invested heavily in the infrastructure of their places of work, with more investment to come.”
“We have engaged with their claim and have resolved many of their claims, are resolving some now and are engaged in addressing other claims.”
“The easiest thing would have been to reject the pay claims, but we have not done so. Instead, we are working to try to ensure that whatever proposals are made are objectively justifiable.”
“That is the way for us to be able to properly address these claims,” he said.
“If we have been unable to do more sooner because of the all-consuming Brexit negotiations, I can only apologise, but it is my judgement that it the interests of the whole community must come first and above any claims by any particular sector, however valued and important it may be.”
“The teaching profession is a large one and its claims can have important financial effects. That is why this claim both merits, deserves and requires serious, careful and objective assessment. We are doing that and hope we will be able to resolve issues to mutual satisfaction in short order.”