18 - 24 April 2001
Social partners cross swords with government over MCEDís future
By Miriam Dunn
The social partners are still hoping that the government will take on board the proposals they have put forward before legislative changes are made concerning the future of the Malta Council for Economic Development.
Speaking during an interview with The Business Times, Edwin Calleja, the secretary general of the Federation of Industry, said there had been a unanimous protest by unions and employersí organisations at the way the legislation relating to the newly-named Malta Council for Social and Economic Development was going to be passed through Parliament.
In his typical no-nonsense manner, Mr Calleja said all the social partners that had been involved in talks hoped the government would reconsider its legislative plans for the MCED and also change its attitude.
"We still hope the government will see our point of view and make the necessary amendments," he said. "After all, this is a tri-partite system and the rules by which we are going to play must, at least, be agreed between all three parties. The government imposing the rules by which we are all going to play is not the answer."
Mr Calleja said that one particular change he would like to see was more active participation from the government representatives on the council.
"Up till now, they have not really participated at all in most of the debates we have held," he said. "We would like to see the government representatives getting involved and giving clear indications about the line of policies rather than just sitting back and observing the debate between the unions and employers and then implementing decisions that are not acceptable to us. This is not the way to do things."
Mr Calleja stressed that none of the social partners was attempting to take an executive or legislative role.
"But we firmly believe that opinions expressed by those involved in the MCED, especially when theyíre mutually agreed upon by unions and employers, should be taken very seriously by government when it makes its decisions on the same matters," he said.
The FOI secretary general pointed out that he was pleased with the enhanced status the MCED had been granted by the government, admitting it has come a long way from the days when it was a "coffee shop" for discussion.
"Initially it was a good idea to have somewhere for the parties to exchange ideas on the economy and social measures," he said. "But then we said we have to move beyond just talking about things, while the government continued on its own course, and there were also some problems relating to insufficient financing and flexibility for studies to be undertaken at the MCED."
Mr Calleja said that he was pleased to note that the government now seemed to be paying more attention to the opinions being expressed around the MCED table."Let us now hope consideration will also be given to our suggestions for the legislative changes planned for the MCED at this important juncture," he said.
A full interview with Edwin Calleja will appear in next weekís edition of The Business Times