23 JANUARY 2002
By Kurt Sansone
It was all smiles and handshakes in Parliament yesterday when the General Workers Unions highest officials presented their 61 amendments to the industrial and employment relations white paper to Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
But hidden beneath all the well wishing and gratitude was Dr Gonzis emphatic message that the moment has arrived for government to take bold decisions.
Dr Gonzi stressed that government will evaluate all the proposals received from unions and constituted bodies, keeping in mind that decisions need to be taken.
Visibly proud of being the person responsible for pushing forward the white paper that has been on the drawing board for almost 10 years, Dr Gonzi said that his intention is to table the legislation in Parliament before the summer recess for discussion and approval by years end.
The date for the consultation process has been extended until the end of January to give the social partners a chance to submit their amendments and counter proposals.
None of the GWUs 61 amendments were made public but it is reliably understood that the bulk of the amendments focus on the proposed changes to the Industrial Relations Act, which, among others speaks about sympathy strikes and essential services.
GWU Secretary General Tony Zarb said that the union would be asking for meetings with government to discuss the proposed amendments to the white paper.
When asked by members of the media whether the union was ready to give in on some of its proposals, Mr Zarb reiterated that the union was ready to discuss the whole package with government.
Mr Zarb emphasised that the union was reserving the right to give further reactions to the white paper when the proposals of the other constituted bodies become known.
The GWU delegation was composed of President Salvu Sammut, Mario Cutajar,
Helen Mallia and Michael Parnis.