The Malta Shipyards (MSL) are expected to declare losses of around Lm2 million over the past year, a far cry from suggestions by government that the ‘yards had incurred Lm8 million in losses.
General Workers Union officials have already been informed by MSL management that losses are expected to be around Lm2m, Business Today is informed.
Earlier this week, Investments Minister Austin Gatt was reported to have said the ‘yards had increased its losses by Lm8m over and above its projections for the year. Business Today can confirm that another Lm6m are brought forward from the previous year’s accumulative losses.
Malta Shipyards are currently finalising their year-end accounts. A spokesperson for the investments ministry said the first indications are that losses for 2006 “will be significantly far from those budgeted”.
“The minister’s point was one driven by basic economic realities which clearly dictate that if the situation persists, the company will simply not have enough cash to run its operations and these naturally include, but not limited to, the settlement of the company’s wage bill,” the spokesperson said with reference to comments by Austin Gatt last Sunday on Radio 101.
Yesterday however, Opposition leader Alfred Sant chose not to comment over the news given by Gatt on the shipyards’ projected losses.
Gatt’s comments were prompted by a recent show of force with shipyards workers, when 50 employees staged a protest in sympathy with seven colleagues who were suspended for being caught asleep on the job during their night shift.
Contacted yesterday, Alfred Sant insisted he will not comment on the matter, while deputy Labour leader Charles Mangion diverted from the issue by talking about the need of a hefty capital investment in the yards to secure the competitiveness of the company that already enjoys a very good reputation for its worker skills.
Asked again for his remarks about the projected “significant” losses, Charles Mangion said that he had no information to support any further comment, and added that he would have to wait for government to produce the information before raising the issue in parliament.
“I augur that government, management and union all respect the existing agreements between them,” was his only comment.
During an early morning newspaper analysis on Radio 101 last Sunday, Austin Gatt appealed to the 1,700-strong workforce to be cautious and aware of the dramatic situation. “If the situation persists, the company will simply not have enough cash to run its operations and those naturally include the settlement of the company’s wage bill,” Gatt said.
While referring to the petty issue regarding seven workers who were found idle in the yards during night-shift – an issue that dominated the weekend news following a press conference and statements by both government and the GWU – Austin Gatt insisted that gone are the days where the yard management could go to the Prime Minister and ask for money to pay salaries.
“Moreover, after 2008 government will not be allowed to subsidise the losses of the company any further. Subsidies are finished and the Maltese people have already paid more than Lm400 million to keep the company afloat. It is up to the workers and the yards to pull up their socks and do what has to be done and not drain any more money and give nothing in return,” he said.
The GWU is taking a cautious approach to the issue with section secretary Charles Agius explaining that he is not in a position to comment much about the losses, given that from the little information the union has obtained from the shipyards management, no factual justifications have been forwarded so far.
“What I can say is that we asked for some clarifications from the yards management however they have not returned any answers for us to understand better what is actually happening,” he said.
Charles Agius insists that what he cannot understand is how could the yards announce that they have produced more and increased turnover and the losses are projected to be significantly far from those budgeted. “Something is odd,” he stressed.