29 MAY 2002
The majority of around 730 early retirement applications will be accepted by The Malta Dry-docks management. Only around 70 are to be refused but this may catalyse protests as these workers feel that they have the right to retire under the Early Retirement Scheme launched in February.
The total includes 619 Drydocks employees and more than 100 at Malta Shipbuilding. So far the shipyards have accepted 670 applications and refused around 69 while there are some applications that are still being considered.
Applications for early retirement under the scheme will remain open until next Friday. The Management is saying that even out of those who have already left the Dockyard, there are some who were important to the company. But because the down-sizing is important for the viability of the company, they decided to let them go.
This has created confusion among those who have had their application refused.
The Malta Financial and Business Times has information that some of the 69 people whose application has been refused have protested with their union as they see this as an unjust exercise. But the GWU was and still is adamantly in favour of the retention of the Malta Drydocks best talent.
Tony Coleiro last week told The Malta Financial and Business Times that he doesnt think many more workers will apply until the end of the month. Highlighting the problems the Drydocks faces, he pointed out that unfortunately, some of the best workers are leaving the dockyard.
"One example is the first group of 10 welder/burners who left the yard more than seven weeks ago," he said. "Six of them were amongst the best in the department."
Asked to comment on Drydocks chairman John Cassar Whites warning that time is running out for the yards if they are to be competitive, Mr Coleiro said he disagreed fundamentally with the statement.
"It would be much more useful to look at what is happening right now," he said. "Everything is running full speed ahead to ruin the yards in the least possible time, even though the chairman himself might not be fully aware of what is really happening."
Mr Coleiro said that the ruining of the 'yards has been on the agenda of the present government for a long time, and the highly publicised restructuring measures are doing nothing but hastening all this.
"The chairman keeps repeating that unless certain outdated work practices are changed, it will be practically impossible for the shipyards to compete. But I would like to hear the chairman say when and where he ever had a negative answer from the GWU when these 'outdated working practices' were discussed."
He challenged the chairman to confirm or deny that for the past three years the GWU has been begging the management to establish a benchmark of what is really expected from each worker during a day's work.
Mr Coleiro stressed that from the 700 or so people who will make their exit from the Drydocks, most are highly skilled workers with a sizeable amount under the age of 40.