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Reforms at MDD: the final countdown

The MDD Task Force’s recommendations are very welcome news.
It comes after a record short working calendar and it comes up with a blue print for downsizing a company that has been crying out for reform for decades.
When, and if, this happens it would lead to a cultural change in labour relations.
The MDD has relived Scargillian tactics over and over again. It was considered a sacred cow, finally, the workers and their leaders have come to terms with the fact that there is no easy way ahead but only the third way.
It has taken ages for reform to hit the road at MDD.
Since 1987 the PN government has faced an interminable number of threats from the MDD extremists and instead of confronting the issue, it has had to bow to pressure.
This has left the MDD in the enviable position of receiving funds for little in return.
Public funds have been funnelled to subsidise wages, while very little was put into marketing or capital investment.
Finally it has dawned that this loss-making venture cannot go on.
The deal allows for an early retirement scheme in a fixed period of time. The scheme is obligatory and in our view this is the most worrisome aspect to the task force proposal. What happens if not enough workers accept the scheme?
Will the union panic and alter the goalposts to this blueprint?
There is across the board agreement that the MDD should not continue to receive its present subsidies. This will be trimmed down to Lm2 million over a period of years.
The success of this venture is also possible because of the maturity shown by the Labour opposition, who have actively supported this deal. To be fair to them, they have tried very hard to initiate reforms at the MDD but there was no media or opposition (PN) support at the time.
The only hitch to their stance are their conditional statements that nothing should be done to accommodate the EU’s insistence that dockyard subsidies are cut.
Which is a ludicrous point of view considering that the catalyst to many of the changes currently taking place are a direct result of Malta’s accession process.
True, the reforms that need to be taken in hand have little to do with Europe. But then again, many of the considerations and criteria set out by the EU are, in essence, agreed to by all the parties.
The Nationalist government has finally chosen to take the bull by the horns.
It will not be easy to implement the Task Force’s brief, but it must be seen to for everyone’s good.
When this eventually gets off the ground, one must start considering reforms in other sectors, indeed some other companies offer parallel lives to that at the MDD. The Water Services Corporation, Enemalta and PBS are fine examples.
These corporations are also heavily subsidised and until now there is no indication that they will face structural changes.
The unions have always argued against draconian measures but there is no future for public subsidies here.
This Task Force initiative provides a ray of hope, there is general consensus that these reforms must bear fruit.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt