Ambulance problem appears poised to escalate

The ambulance problem appears to poised to escalate, as the unions and the heath authority make statements that show differing positions.

The TGWU/ACTS said yesterday that they wish to condemn the manner in which their members were treated on Saturday, by the government and the Gibraltar Health Authority,and say they were threatened and intimidated by police. They go on to accuse the GHA of treating the ambulance staff "like criminals".

Says the union: Our members as part of their selective industrial action, which is minimum, as they attend all emergency calls and patients transfer, decided to station outside the GHA hospital and place a placard, informing the general public of their grievances. A tent was set up because there was the possibility of rain. On Saturday the Gibraltar Police turned up and dismantled the base, members were threatened and intimidated with arrests if they would not move.


"This is totally scandalous, disgraceful and totally unacceptable, we consider this to be undemocratic," they said.

And that go on to say that the issue at stake is the accommodation, not the agreement with the GHA.

In June,they add, we raised this issue, and both sides agreed a 3 month trial period, because the nurses in A&E were not happy with this arrangement, neither were the ambulance staff. This fundamental point has not been highlighted in the Government press statement.

"Our position has been made very clear from the onset; the ambulance service needs a base from where to work, like other essential services," says a union statement. "We are not seeking more money, but a place from where to operate. This we consider to be a reasonable request, which the GHA management are denying. The GHA management have treated a professional body like the ambulance service like criminals for seeking their legal rights."


The GHA said earlier that it deeply regrets the industrial action being taken by the ambulance staff, only 5 months after signing a Collective Agreement.

After lengthy consultation and negotiations last May both with the TGWU and representatives of the Ambulance Service, a Collective Agreement was signed by both sides, which incorporated the Ambulance Service (previously working under St John?s) into the Gibraltar Health Authority. The Agreement allowed for the transfer of staff members of the Ambulance Service into GHA employment on the 1 June 2007 and all members signed employment contracts consistent with the Collective Agreement, says the GHA.

The Collective Agreement, they add, provides a package of measures which have brought very significant benefits to the ambulance staff, including a considerable increase in income through the payment of a shift disturbance allowance.

"An important part of the Agreement (and this was made very clear to both the TGWU and staffside during the negotiations and accepted by them), is that the Emergency Ambulance Crew (12 hour shifts on a 24 hour basis) will be based within the Accident & Emergency Department of St Bernard?s Hospital whilst not actually out on a call. The Patient Transfer Crew (who work various day and evening shifts) will be based in the Main Reception area whilst not actually deployed on the active transfer of patients," says the GHA.


As a result of representations made by the Emergency Ambulance Crew with regard to their location within the A & E Department and other issues, the newly appointed Minister for Health, Yvette Del Agua, agreed to meet with the shop steward, members of the ambulance service and the TGWU District Officer on Wednesday 24 October, after staffside had lifted their threat of industrial action. After ironing out the other issues, the question of accommodation was discussed at length with staffside and the TGWU District Officer.

Whilst accepting that the Collective Agreement clearly states the exact work location of the ambulance staff, staffside expressed dissatisfaction with this arrangement. "Out of goodwill the Minister offered the Emergency Ambulance Crew a separate room within the A & E Department which is perfectly adequate for the purpose that it is required, that is, for the Emergency Ambulance Crew to write their reports in private, and for them to associate when they are not out on a call, or assisting within the A & E Department," said the GHA.

The offer of this room, the GHA adds, has now been rejected by the Emergency Ambulance Staff, who claim that they want to be housed together with the Patient Transfer Service and away from the A& E Department. This destroys the benefit obtained by the GHA under the new agreement in return for which the staff received higher pay.

The GHA?s position is that it is not willing to concede to this request, and add that it is clear that the action being taken by the Ambulance Staff is in breach of the Collective Agreement signed in May 2007.


The Minister for Health, and Chairperson of the GHA, Yvette Del Agua has said: ?it is totally unacceptable that the Ambulance Staff and TGWU should renege on the part of the Agreement that does not suit them, whilst reaping the very many benefits that they are deriving under this new Agreement. The GHA therefore reserves its right to take whatever action it deems appropriate in the light of the clear breach of the Agreement by the Ambulance Staff.?