6 FEBRUARY 2002
Marika Azzopardi talks to Sea Malta chief Marlene Mizzi and GRTU head Vince Farrugia about the hauliers action against Sea Malta
The industrial action carried out by the GRTU cargo hauliers on Monday morning at Laboratory Wharf has led to yet another sour industrial predicament.
This time around, Sea Malta and the GRTU are at loggerheads over a Sea Malta directive, which is in contradiction to previous cargo hauling agreements.
"To date the situation is one wherein we have directed cargo hauliers not to handle Sea Malta work. If they have to take containers to a container depot, we have explained to them that the 1993 agreement still holds, and that they would be breaking the law should they use Belt il-Hazna as a depot," GRTU Secretary General Vince Farrugia told The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday.
Referring to Mondays situation at the port as having been very precarious, he explains, "It takes only one hothead to create a dangerous situation. We still believe that the police should have acted only after a court injunction."
However, Mr Farrugia appreciated the way in which Assistant Commissioner Alfred Abela handled the situation, which could have deteriorated dramatically. He felt that the whole matter could have been avoided if the GRTUs request to discuss Sea Maltas decision to change the set working procedures last November had been accepted.
Meanwhile, Sea Maltas Chairman Marlene Mizzi commented yesterday, "There have been no further developments in this situation as yet." She explained that the action against Sea Malta by the cargo hauliers co-op still stands. She elaborates, "We have made the decision to use Belt il-Hazna as opposed to Hal-Far in view of our re-structuring exercise. It is also a cost-saving exercise."
She described the cargo-hauliers as being service-providers, adding that cost-cutting exercises are unfortunately bound to cause displeasure. Ms Mizzi reiterates, "However my obligations are first and foremost to my employees."
According to Mr Farrugia, should hauliers use the Belt il-Hazna depot as requested by Sea Malta, they would be mining away at a ministerial assurance acquired after much effort in 1993. The assurance had stated that the 1981 arrangements regarding the use of Belt il-Hazna were no longer valid and that no parking or deposit of containers outside Blata l-Bajda could be effected unless authorised by the Commissioner of Police.
The checkmate situation could lead to further instability in the port industry, a situation the GRTU is adamant could be resolved through dialogue.