9 JANUARY 2002

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The first bangs of the year

The first bang of the year was the reaction by the unions to the latest proposals related to industrial relations.
The bone of contention lies in the interpretation of a trade dispute. The proposals redimension the meaning of a dispute.
Unsurprisingly, the unions have jumped at the suggestion that sympathy strikes are no longer part of the game. Neither have they been very happy with extending the list of essential services.
The decision to erase sympathy strikes comes after a series of experiences spanning over the last fifteen-years which have seen this small nation experience a number of industrial strikes. This has led to the paralysis or semi-paralysis of main arteries of the economy. The port, the airport and others are some prime examples. The main culprits have been union leaders or their lieutenants who have acted with impunity.
The unions have pointed out to Dr Lawrence Gonzi that the there was no such agreement at the MCSD on these points.
The issue is bound to enrapture the media. Clashes with the unions are not a one-off.
Sympathy strikes allow unions to kick any private enterprise or government in the groin.
When one employer attempts to reform or change conditions of work, he is guaranteed all sorts of opposition from the unions. But the worst comes when an employer with no dispute with his employees suffers the full brunt of the unions.
This is unfair.
This country has a very rigid industrial relations framework, but a flimsy work ethic.
The unions always talk of acting in a sensible and mature manner but when it comes to the crunch, they come nowhere close to this.

Another storm in a teacup

With this trouble brewing in industrial relations we were faced with yet another teething problem. The resignation of Anthony Galdes as Chairman of the Commission for National Welfare Reform was reported with much prominence and spin last Monday. This led Leo Brincat to rush over to his PC and add fuel to the fire by saying this was proof of the internal divisions between the two contenders for the leadership of the PN.
Hogwash would be a good way of describing this comment.
But nevertheless the resignation of Galdes, brutally implanted in a daily newspaper by a journalist known for his motives, does raise some questions.
The first point is that government should stop abdicating its right to govern and stop believing that a commission is the answer to everything.
The second point is that welfare reform needs to be tackled at once.
The budgetary proposals in Mr John Dalli’s speech point to a direction to welfare reform. It was obvious that the government had long given up hope that the Welfare commission was coming up with a blueprint for change.
This was to be expected considering the fact that the commission was made up of several members from the unions – whose commitment lies with their members and not the future of the country.
This country needs pension reforms fast and the steps needed to see this reform through will not be easy. It will include private pensions and extending the pension age. It is the government that must take the bull by its horns and not any commission.
Let this be clear to all.


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