Gross miscommunication between government ministries and departments has meant that the planned transfer, back to the government of some 350 Water Services Corporation workers started being implemented even before the state water company had concluded its workforce assessment, Business Today has learned.
The issue erupted when the General Workers’ Union was notified by its Gozitan members working at WSC that the department of local councils had informed them by a letter not to report for work at the corporation but to local councils instead. Local department sources admitted there was no approval from the Office of the Prime Minister, which turned down the directive.
The GWU members affected were on loan from the government to the corporation, but the department had never informed the union of the new detailing, which was also in the pipeline along with the corporation’s restructuring plan.
The situation led GWU Secretary General Tony Zarb to announce, at last week’s protest in Valletta, that WSC workers had their jobs on the line. The union also directed its WSC members to report to work as usual and ignore the department’s letter.
“We got to know about the plan to shed off workers from WSC by coincidence,” said the GWU’s section secretary, Josephine Attard Sultana. “Our Gozitan members were telling us they just received this letter telling them to report to local councils.”
After the communication mess, government declared that none of the workers would lose their job, but a number of those on loan from the government would be transferred elsewhere – a move which according to Austin Gatt would save the corporation Lm500,000 in overtime and shift allowances. WSC currently employs 1,500 workers.
“The government has every right to assign these workers to duties elsewhere,” the corporation said in a statement.
“We need information about their new work conditions,” Attard Sultana rebutted. “This may affect their allowances and take home pay, but the corporation has yet to give us information about its plans.”
Investments Minister Austin Gatt said in Parliament on Monday that in the year up to last September, the WSC made a loss of Lm6.6 million, as projected. For next year, the WSC was projecting to reduce its losses by a further Lm1.1 million to Lm5.2 million, without raising tariffs or reducing workers, although some workers on loan from the civil service would revert to the service.