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News | Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Unions cautious approach to Budget

Charlot Zahra

The trade Unions that spoke to Business Today were generally cautious in their initial responses about the 2010 Budget Speech, as they await with bated breath the MRA’s announcement about the proposed utility tariffs which will hit households and firms as from January 1.
In fact, the Unions are afraid that the €5.82 COLA grant for inflation for this year’s inflation will be wiped out partially or wholly by the substantial utility tariffs.
In his first initial reaction following the presentation of the 2010 Budget Speech, General Workers’ Union (GWU) Secretary-General Tony Zarb described the Budget as “moderate”.
“The GWU hopes that what has been announced does not evaporate with the new utility tariffs,” the GWU chief warned.
The GWU expressed its satisfaction at the Government’s accepted some of its-pre-Budget proposals, such as the full COLA increase to everybody and the granting of assistance to those industries in economic distress.
At the same time, Zarb expressed his disappointment that other pre-Budget proposals had not been accepted by the Government, such as the reduction in income tax bands, “which was aimed at leaving more disposable income in workers’ pockets”.
The GWU chief warned that the GWU would remain “vigilant” to ensure that the promises that were made in the Budget Speech are fulfilled.
In this context, the GWU insisted that the social partners “should be involved in the implementation of the announced measures, especially those involving investment, employment and consumer protection”, Zarb concluded.
The GWU’s National Council will be meeting today to issue a more detailed reaction to the 2010 Budget Speech.
On his part, Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UHM) Secretary-General Gejtu Vella told Business Today that the 2010 Budget Speech had included some of the principles on which the Union had insisted.
These included stability and economic growth, job creation, fiscal morality, curbing inflation and consumer protection, investment in education, and welfare.”
However, Vella lamented that the UHM was expecting “a more effective commitment by the Government against welfare benefits’ abuse and tax evasion”
The Union also welcomed the proposed setting-up of the Malta Fair Trading Authority, which would further educate and protect the consumer.
“The UHM hopes that that the analysis of the pitkali operations and the introduction of a mandatory correction mechanism for medicine prices would contribute to a curb in inflation,” Vella told Business Today.
The UHM’s General Council will also be convening today to discuss in further detail the 2010 Budget Speech.
The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT), in its post-Budget reaction, has also expressed its concern on the planned rise in utility tariffs.
In a statement issued yesterday, the MUT council also called for “a maximum rate would be declared so as not to instil uncertainty”.
The Union welcomed an addition of €16 million in capital expenditure on education, announced in the Budget Speech on Monday.
“Although the allocation for education is never enough, the total sum of €270 million shows government commitment to give absolute priority to this important sector, the backbone of the country,” the MUT insisted.
The union also welcomed the Government spending on capital projects and measures to boost the economy. “One now had to wait and see whether what was being promised would be implemented”, the MUT warned.
All social partners have called on the Government to announce immediately the proposed tariffs, so as to remove the economic uncertainty created by the impasse, especially at a time that the Christmas festivities are round the corner.

czahra@mediatoday.com.mt

 

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11 November 2009
ISSUE NO. 607

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