Karl Stagno-Navarra A letter sent by European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) secretary-general John Monks inviting the General Workers’ Union and the Forum of Maltese Unions urging the formation of a Trades Union Council, is being interpreted as a move to sideline the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) led by secretary-general Gejtu Vella.
Sources in Brussels told Business Today that John Monks’s letter “came as no surprise”, following a number of recent contacts made by officials from the GWU and the Forum, a collection of 11 unions that includes the Malta Union of Teachers.
The GWU is considered to be the “closest” among national unions to John Monks and the ETUC, while the Forum, led by MUT President John Bencini is still insisting with government to have its group of 11 unions represented on the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD).
The same sources have confirmed that Forum President John Bencini who has since become very close to Tony Zarb, has attempted to seek affiliation with the ETUC in a bid to bypass the resistance for its representation within MCESD.
According to sources, the move by GWU and Forum to have John Monks write to them and also copy the Confederation of Maltese Trade Unions president William Portelli (the CMTU groups all unions bar the GWU and MUT) as an arranged attempt “to mount pressure on MCESD and meanwhile sideline the UHM who have been avid promoters of a social pact.
Business Today understands that the issue is also a matter of a “clash of personalities” to the extent that should a TUC be formed in Malta, John Bencini would be pushed to run for president, given his eagerness to take centre-stage after pulling MUT out of the CMTU last year.
Industrial observers told this newspaper that the proposed TUC would also vie for national influence with the CMTU, while Zarb’s influence on the trade union scene would be bolstered, practically sideling the UHM, and eliminating the CMTU.
The idea of forming a TUC in Malta developed in 2006 but so far never worked out.
In his letter, John Monks said that he was prompted to write “to again raise the subject of a proposed unified Malta TUC that has been discussed, on and off, for several years. With the creation of Forum, there are three focal points for trade unions in Malta,” he said, stopping short of saying that the ETUC did not accept John Bencini’s request but intelligently diverted the attention to Malta by inviting all unions to form a TUC.
He also mentioned economist Edward Zammit, director of the university’s Centre for Labour Studies, as a possible mediator in the discussions on the formation of the TUC.