News | Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Employers mum on energy tariffs reduction

Charlot Zahra

Employer organisations united in not replying to questions sent by Business Today regarding the revised utility tariffs announced Investments Minister Austin Gatt a week ago.
Following the controversy that followed when the new utility tariffs were originally announced in October last year, to the ire of all social partners, employer organisations have now adopted a more cautious approach in their reactions to the proposed utility tariffs.
“The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry feels that it is premature to comment at this point about the issue,” a spokesperson for the Chamber told Business Today when contacted about the matter.
Likewise, Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) Director-General Joe Farrugia, when contacted by this newspaper to give his reaction about the revised utility tariffs, ducked our questions.
“MEA is awaiting the final submissions by the Malta Resource Authority before making any pronouncements about the tariffs,” he said.
The same tactic was adopted by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MEA), when asked by Business Today for the organisation’s reaction to the revised utility tariffs.
“At this stage the President has no comments to make until we have studied well the reductions announced by Government,” MHRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) George Schembri told this newspaper.
GRTU never answered our emails.
The eleven Unions that had opposed the new water and electricity tariffs for the past eight months were highly critical of the revision of the tariffs announced last Tuesday week.
“The eleven Unions condemn Minster Gatt’s behaviour who, during a press conference where he announced the revision of the electricity and water tariffs, focused his attack solely on the GWU, one of the Unions that together with the other 10 Unions, have opposed these tariffs from the onset.”
The other ten Unions declared that they considered the attack on the GWU “as an attack on them too”.
The eleven Unions – MUMN, UMASA, ALPA, UPAP, UTAC, MUT, UHBC, AAE, UCC, EPOU, and GWU – said they now expected the Malta Resources Authority “to consider the tariffs, as it is obliged to, in the light of the proposals that the same Unions had given to him during a meeting that they had with him.”
During that meeting, the eleven unions had proposed, among other things, that the tariffs would be revised retroactively as from October last year.
Moreover, they called for a steeper reduction from that proposed by the Government “in view of the fact that the price of oil had plummeted to the levels that it was prior to the introduction of the fuel surcharge”.
The eleven trade Unions also called for the revision of the number of units for which a family qualifies for eco-reduction “so that more single-person and two-person families would qualify for it”.
In view of all this, the eleven Trade Unions noted “the continuation of theatrics by Minister Austin Gatt when he announced the tariffs as finalised without seeking the approval of the Regulator”.
When contacted, UHM Secretary-General Gejtu Vella told Business Today that the Union will be adopting a wait-and-see policy before commenting on the revised tariffs.
“We will issue our re-action regarding the Water and Electricity tariffs following the approval or otherwise from the competent authority,” Vella insisted.
Neither CMTU President William Portelli nor CMTU Vice-President Martin Balzan returned our e-mails and messages on the matter. A first e-mail was sent on Thursday, followed up with a reminder on Sunday afternoon.



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01 April 2009

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