MediaToday
News | Wednesday, 28 January 2009

ST cuts production line shifts

David Darmanin
At a meeting among officials, STMicroelectronics has last week informed the General Workers’ Union (GWU) that it had decided to cut down shifts on one of its production lines.
“The last time we met ST was last week on Tuesday,” GWU Section Secretary for Technology and Electronics Andrew Mizzi told Business Today. “They told us that because of lack of work, they had decided to cut down shifts on one of its production lines. Whereas this particular line operated from Monday to Saturday on four shifts per employee, this has now been reduced to Monday to Friday on a three-shift week,” he said.
Mizzi said he was baffled when he read last Sunday’s MaltaToday report about meetings between ST officials and the Prime Minister on the fate of the conglomerate’s assembly plant in Malta.
“We were not informed,” he said. “The MaltaToday report was news to us. We have now sent a letter to the Prime Minister to request an urgent meeting in the light of what has been published.”
The letter sent to the Prime Minister was copied to company officials along with its entire workforce.
“We quoted the legal notice for consultation and information in the letter sent to the Prime Minister, as well as an EU directive on consultation,” Mizzi added, while showing his utter disappointment about not being informed of such meetings.
Asked whether the Union had been in contact with ST over issues it may be facing, Mizzi confirmed that meetings have been taking place since November.
“Yes they have told us about problems because lack of work, but officially, we were never informed about it risking closure or mass redundancies,” he said, while qualifying that: “the union was never officially informed, but obviously, things are different verbally. While talking, everyone has different opinions.”
Mizzi said that if ST were to close, “the repercussions would be devastating. ST is responsible for 50 per cent of Malta’s exports. Besides, we are also concerned about all the other local industries relying on ST’s business. We have calculated that its closure in Malta could affect 5,000 jobs locally.”
With a workforce of 2,200, STMicroelectronics is Malta’s largest private employer. The conglomerate already receives a series of government incentives in order to keep its operation in Malta competitive.
Without going into specifics, a Finance Ministry official told Business Today that STMicroelectronics receives “Investment aid in the form of Investment Tax Credits, Training Assistance and Soft Loans.”
Whenever applicable, ST could also benefit from: “Loan guarantees and interest rate subsidies on loans taken to finance capital expenditure; trade promotions and de minimis aid of up to €200,000 over a three year period,” among others.
But when asked about ST’s contribution to the local GDP, its export figures and on how much the company contributed to government coffers over the last years, the ministry official side-stepped our questions, discounting the information as “confidential”.
Both the office of the Prime Minister as well as STMicroelectronics itself ignored all questions sent by Business Today about the matter.
Attempts have been made to contact the international press office of the company, but to no avail.

ddarmanin@mediatoday.com.mt

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28 January 2009
ISSUE NO. 567

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