General Workers’ Union (GWU) Secretary-General Tony Zarb stressed that one of the major challenges the country will be facing during this new year, will be to see the exit from the current recession.
“This will mean that all involved have to continue in the efforts to save jobs especially within the manufacturing, tourism and retail sectors,” Zarb told Business Today.
He added that the higher utility tariffs, which came into effect as from January 1, “will surely have a negative impact on the people and thus prolonging the hardships on families’ purchasing power and consequently lessening further their standard of living.”
There were also other issues that had to be tackled – inflation, job creation, investment in alternative sources of energy, reducing Malta’s carbon footprint and improving the environment in general.
Asked to how, in his view, the country should face these challenges effectively, Zarb spoke about the need for Government to improve the process of “real” social dialogue so that it has a more structured approach.
“The MCESD through the coordination of its economist has compiled a document which outlines solutions to the main challenges facing our country,” Zarb explained.
The government “should realise that it is party to social partnership and therefore it should not do otherwise or follow an opposite direction to what the social partners and other experts propose for the benefit of the country,” the GWU chief warned.
As to the major challenges affecting the social partners and Trade Unions in 2010, Zarb lamented about the fact that on various occasions, like the recent increase in water and electricity tariffs, “the Government undermined MCESD and reduced it to what Minister Austin Gatt had said, a mere talking shop.
“As a result, social dialogue has been weakened rather than strengthened,” the fiery trade unionist insisted.
The year 2009, he added, “gave yet another proof of how the government conveniently uses social dialogue within MCESD to suit him and not to serve the country.
“The government should cease doing this immediately and implement a more structured approach for the MCESD to function properly,” the GWU boss warned.
The process of taking a decision first and then discussing its impact after “should be done away with immediately.
“The GWU has for long been lamenting of this situation and insisting that the MCESD should be the proper platform for effective social dialogue so that the workers and industry, not least our country, would be in a more capable position to face the challenges ahead,” Zarb told Business Today.
Finally, asked as on his opinion as to how the social partners and trade unions should face these challenges effectively, Zarb explained that the GWU believed that the social partners should “exercise mutual respect” if they really wanted to overcome the problems ahead.
The GWU had already expressed its desire to work with all those involved to alleviate the difficulties facing both workers and industry and it had worked tangibly in this direction in the best interest of the country.
“Solving national issues at bilateral level with individual organisations is not the solution,” Zarb insisted.
“The GWU believes that national issues such as the water and electricity tariffs should not be tackled on a bilateral basis with the government but discussed and agreed upon at MCESD level,” he added.