21 27 February 2001
Inspections causing flare-ups at Freeport
Disruption may be on the cards at the Freeport, if talks aimed at thrashing out a dispute between hauliers and the corporation's management fail to produce the necessary results.
The issue at the centre of controversy is the Freeport's decision to step up its inspections of empty containers at the gates and the manner in which this is hindering the hauliers in their work.
The director general of the Association of General Retailers and Traders told The Business Times that the hauliers, whom it represents, were bearing the brunt of the Freeport's decision to intensify its inspections of the containers.
"The hauliers are being forced to stop and get down from their trucks at the main gate to open up during these inspections, which is causing serious delays for these workers, who rely on their own efficiency and speed to earn their money," he said. "The only reason we have not yet called a strike is because the parliamentary secretary George Hyzler has agreed to mediate in this dispute." Mr Farrugia stressed that the GRTU is not against the inspection of the containers, which the hauliers believe have been stepped up because of the recent case in which a number of illegal immigrants were discovered.
"What we are saying is that the hauliers should not be suffering because of the decision," he said. "We also believe that surely spot checks are sufficient and that personnel for the security checks should be provided and funded by the shipping agents or the Freeport."
The GRTU director general admitted that the controversy had already led to flare-ups between the hauliers and management, with one driver being suspended.
"We are unhappy about the procedures being used in these practices and have requested the Freeport to agree to the setting up of an independent disciplinary board to hear these cases," he said.
Mr Farrugia expressed his hope that the intervention of Dr Hyzler in the dispute might lead to some headway being made in the talks between the two sides.
"But if no progress is made, there may well be industrial action on the cards, which will result in stoppage at the gates," he warned.