Optika closes down
The loss of its US client led to the decision of Melita Optika to close
its Malta operations, General Workers Union section spokesman
Andrew Mizzi told The Business Times yesterday.
The GWU yesterday issued a press statement announcing that the factory,
which manufactures spectacles, was closing its Malta base, due to "difficulties
in international markets". One hundred and four of the 150 workers
employed there have been given their notice immediately, while the rest
will wind up their employment over the next six weeks.
Mr Mizzi, who stressed that the union was trying to help the workers
find alternative work, admitted that it is a difficult time for factories,
who are having to adapt their operations to the global market.
"Many smaller operations, like some of those at Mosta Technopark,
are feeling very jittery, and even the larger factories, such as ST
Microelectronics, have a decrease in their workload," he said.
Mr Mizzi, who is secretary of the GWUs technology and electronic
workers section, said that factories which specialised in these
sectors were suffering the ripple effects of the economic unrest in
the US and also having to deal with the worrying developments in the
electronic field abroad.
"For example, the latest reports state that Dell computers are
laying off almost 4,000 workers," he said.
Other contributing factors are thought to be a strong Maltese lira against
the euro and a feeling of insecurity on a local level.
"Some of the larger operations will weather the storm, but in Melita
Optikas case, they lost their US client and could not recover
from that," he said. "For some time, the German subsidiary
pumped them with work, but they obviously reached a point at which their
stores became full."
Asked to comment, Federation of Industry secretary general Edward Calleja
told The Business Times that when production is dependent on exports,
it is inevitable that the impact of what is happening in the foreign
markets will be felt.
"But there are other factors involved as well, most notably competitiveness.
This is a global market and being competitive is the name of the game,"
he added. "Yes, some operations are feeling the repercussions of
the unsettled US economy, but there are other operations, such as Methode
Malta, which have a vast US clientele and are doing very well."
Mr Calleja said that operations that had a wider portfolio of production
were finding it easier to weather current problems, especially when
it was recognised that the electronics sector was going through a great
deal of turbulence.
"Obviously if companies have managed to force the pace in other
markets and expand their specialisation, they have more room to manoeuvre,"
Although yesterdays announcement is a blow for industry, recent
employment figures were not all doom and gloom. Data released by the
National Statistics Office showed that the jobless figure for March
stood at 6,591 down about 1,100 on the previous March.