1 October 2003

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Gonzi reports back to cabinet on Drydocks dispute

By Kurt Sansone
No new developments were reported yesterday in the Drydocks controversy as Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi informed cabinet of the current situation after Saturday’s impasse with the General Workers’ Union.
"Government is now studying the developments in a bid to take the decisions that need to be taken," The Malta Financial and Business Times was told yesterday by a ministry spokesman after the cabinet meeting.
The cabinet meeting was held in parliament rather than at Castille and no public statement was issued after its conclusion. The media was not informed of the meeting.
There was no contact between government and the GWU yesterday and no meetings between the sides are scheduled for today. Meanwhile, the GWU is expected to hold a rally for Drydocks workers tomorrow. The meeting is expected to be followed closely by government as the outcome might very well determine the future course of action to be taken.
The discussions between government and the GWU on the new collective agreement hit a snag on Saturday when the union turned down government’s proposal to replace wage increases with performance related bonuses.

The ministry spokesman yesterday confirmed that it was government’s impression that GWU secretary general Tony Zarb had misunderstood government’s proposal.
"Government is not averse to sitting around the negotiating table but it seems from media reports that Mr Zarb has interpreted wrongly the proposal concerning performance bonuses and wage increases. Government looks forward to explaining all," the ministry spokesman said.
On Saturday Dr Gonzi, who heads the Drydocks reform task force, proposed that Drydocks wages remain at current levels with workers benefiting from the customary cost of living increase rather than a wage increase across the board determined by the collective agreement.
However, government’s proposal also includes an efficiency increment linked to the ‘yards productivity and profitability.
Tony Zarb has gone on record describing the proposal as a wage freeze. He has also warned that accepting a wage freeze at the Drydocks would make it easier for government to implement a wage freeze in other public entities.
kurt@maltamag.com



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