5 JUNE 2002
The right time to ask the government for more
The General Workers' Union is asking for more. Other unions are very much in the same mood. Before an election, politicians are tempted to give in to such requests.
The irony is that the workers at the GWU have been deprived of a wage increase, but the union is calling for an increment for employees at the Water Services Corporation. The union was asking for an Lm8 increase but changed it to Lm6 a week. This is unacceptable. The WSC is not a money-making utility, it loses money and it receives subventions from government.
The union talks of guarding the interests of workers. Then why does it not argue that the WSC employees are equal to their brothers and sisters in government employment?
The business community must raise the spectre of loosening up before the last general election.
The decision to send the WSC collective agreement proposal to the tribunal is a wise decision. But procrastinating is not the solution.
Manna from heaven
Just over a month ago Malta resumed its oil exploration efforts for the umpteenth time. Italian company Agip was entrusted with the works off the Gozo coast. The exploratory area has never been studied before but experts say that its outlook is positive.
The oil euphoria has died down, at the moment nothing interesting is happening to wet the appetites of the Maltese would-be Dallas cowboys. But in six months time and probably on the eve of an electoral campaign news will start coming through on the potential of a good oil find.
It has happened in the past and it will certainly happen again.
The likeliness of striking oil is not remote. To the north Sicily has struck one of the largest oil wells in the region and to the south Libya has its fair share of crude. Industry analysts state that it is just a matter of hitting the right cap.
But apart from the black gold being used to oil the electioneering process, little thought if any has ever been given in this country on how such a resource would be managed if we ever hit the jackpot.
Visions of 'oil money' turning this country into a mini-Texas abound by the plenty but it could simply mean financial, social and environmental chaos.
This country is only just learning that nothing comes for free and that its internal financial problems must be solved by careful planning and not by unsolicited manna from heaven.