this week: Doing the dockyard shuffle
No more white elephants
The Malta Drydocks issue is a crucial one for these Islands
and public interest will be intensified over the coming weeks. Finding
good solutions for the shipyard and its workers is in the interest of
the entire nation and nobody is suggesting that reform will be easy.
Those involved in negotiations must be extremely careful not to suggest
decisions that will leave us in a worse situation than we find ourselves
The General Workers Union and the ministries for social policy and finance
need to consider innovative ideas, but ensure the proposals made will
improve Maltas financial situation in the long run while ensuring
that the impacts are not socially unacceptable.
The suggestion that a company may be set up to take on the 900 or so
excessive employees from the yard, may sound attractive, but before
it is taken any further, government should make its intentions clear
Malta has had rough experiences with organisations set up to hide excessive
unemployment figures, and since the government is already stating it
will guarantee employment for the 900, one can only fear the worst.
The idea that work with the government is work for life is one that
should no longer hold currency. It does not make good economic sense
and cannot be defended as just. Employees in the public sector need
to be treated to a bit of private sector incentive treatment, where
targets are given and action taken depending on results achieved. And
this should apply to the entire public sector.
Performance related reviews with the possibility of redundancy should
become the norm for all employees, and given Maltas dire economic
straits, not to introduce such measures, and quickly, would be suicidal.
Woe betide that the 900 employees are transferred to some public private
partnership or similar set up where management is handed over to the
private sector and salaries are paid for by government. The wool would
have been pulled over the publics eyes.
Malta simply cannot afford to continue subsidising entities that are
not commercially viable.
The image of both the union and the government would be highly enhanced
if solutions are found to alleviate the countries financial burden.
The shipyard employees should, of course, have their say and be offered
the possibility to set up their own structures, provided that they carry
the financial costs of the companies they set up.
The government and the union should be considering all the ideas brought
to the discussion table including: early retirement; soft loans to groups
of employees who agree to leave the yards and set up alone; and encouraging
private companies to employ yard workers by offering financial incentives
(in Italy companies were made exempt from paying tax contributions for
one year after employing people from the public service).
The last thing Malta needs is more white elephants. Setting up a company
which will need subsidising will not be helpful or acceptable. It is
sincerely hoped the government has better ideas in mind.