16 JANUARY 2002

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GWU to address Drydocks workers on proposed redundancy scheme

By Ray Abdilla

The General Workers Union will next week address the Drydocks Workers about the proposed schemes put forward by a task force aimed at making the ‘yard more viable.

The task force, chaired by Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi, has produced a report aimed at turning the Drydocks around, which includes a proposal for 1,500 workers to accept a redundancy scheme. The government released a final report with limited information on Monday.

Tony Coleiro, secretary of the GWU Drydocks section, told The Malta Financial & Business Times that the union will address the workers on the issue and give them advice on what direction they should take.

"Obviously we will leave them free to make their own decision, but we have the responsibility to lead them, just as the church assists its faithful," he said.

Mr Coleiro was cynical when asked to comment on the 1,500 figure of workers to be made redundant.

"The present government is always raving about figures," he said. "Figures are more important than people for the Nationalist administration.

"Do you remember the Lm100 million figure they said Malta would receive from the European Union?"

Mr Coleiro also pointed out that most workers want to work for the good of their families and the country.

"I do not know of any working place which is better off with less workers or without workers," he said.

MIMCOL were also keeping tight-lipped yesterday about the proposed schemes, saying it was still too early for them to be made public.

The published report says the government would do its utmost to find work for those opting to continue working at the ‘yards. But if there was not enough work or if not enough workers take up the retirement schemes, employees would have to work reduced hours and would either be trained to perform other duties or could be assigned to do other jobs.
Other reports prepared for the Task Force show that four voluntary early retirements schemes costing over Lm19.3 million are to be launched by the end of this month. A government investment of Lm90 million over the next seven years is also to be undertaken to guide the shipyards to profitability.

The reports say that a new operating company and new organisation structures would be set up for both Malta Drydocks and Malta Shipbuilding, introducing a new shift work system and job flexibility.

The task force was chaired by Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi and included representatives of the MIMCOL, the management of Malta Drydocks and Malta Shipbuilding, and the General Workers’ Union. The Labour Party had observer status.

The money which the report proposes to be spent on restructuring includes a capital expenditure of Lm10.3 million to upgrade the docks, purchase of additional plant and machinery and for an environmental upgrade at the ‘yards.

A further Lm2.1 million would be spent on training. A Shipyards Training Institute would be set up to train and re-train workers. An apprenticeship-training scheme would also be launched.

The government would also provide the expected working capital shortfalls until break-even is achieved in 2008. The levels of subsidy required are expected to be Lm16.6 million this year, Lm13.4 million next year, Lm10 million in 2004, Lm7.2 million in 2005, Lm6 million in 2006, Lm4 million in 2007 and Lm2 million in 2008.

According to the plans, the future workforce at the ‘yards would consist of 100 senior managers, 200 indirect productive employees and 1,300 direct productive employees. Malta Drydocks would have 1,400 employees while Malta Shipbuilding would have 200.

In a bid not to lose the most gifted workers the management has the right to refuse any application for early retirement. The first voluntary retirement scheme would be for those aged 55 to 61, of whom there are 646 employees at the two ‘yards.

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