29 MAY 2002
- solution in the offing
The new collective agreement for Union Press workers is now in the offing. Months of talks between the union workers committee and officials from the General Workers' Union seemed to have stall with both sides sticking to their initial position.
The Union Press is the printing arm of the General Workers Union. A Lm3-a-week pay increase had been on UPECs (Union Press Employee Committee) agenda since the beginning of the talks but the management was set against such a request.
Several workers from the printing press department had told The Malta Financial and Business Times that the management had made a number of conditions and was ready to give a take it or leave it Lm2 increase.
Among other things the conditions include the abolition of summer half days for those who work as day workers. These include the advertising department, features department and other workers which are on clerical duties. Another measure proposed by the management is for the numerous sections of the Union Press to start working on shift to reduce overtime expenses. One of the proposals is working a four day week for 10 hours a day.
Most of the workers contested this decision as they believe that this goes against the law and it is only if the majority of the workers agree to such a new shift that the union can impose such measures. A good number of worker even threatened to strike if such conditions were to be imposed. In fact there were workers who had already talked to lawyers about such a situation.
The last wage increase at the Union Press was made too and a half years ago, and that too was below par standards as the majority of the workers practically benefited around a Lm1 a week. In fact the agreement was named as tal-friza, a freeze agreement. The last proper wage increase that the Union workers received was in the Anglu Fenech era
Because of the deadlock, the majority of the workers morale had plummeted, but now the morale looks to have gone up again with the Lm3 increase likely to be included and backdated.
Meanwhile whilst the majority of the workers are looking forward to such an agreement, it looks that there is no way that the former housing minister Alfred Portelli, who works as a clerk at Union Press, will have his Lm1 increase (obviously above the Lm3 for all workers) granted. The vast majority of workers who have been employed at Union Press after a length of time have benefited from the Lm1 increase. When awarded, this increment promotes a worker from Group 3, the lowest grade possible, to Group 2. At the moment Mr Portelli, is on the lowest possible Lm80 a week salary.