All hands on deck
It is early morning and the air outside is pleasant. Charles Saliba is playing one of my all time favourite songs, Smoke On The Water. Jon Lord, the former keyboard player with the rock band Deep Purple has died aged 71. Flowers of every colour bloom in our yard. On one side of the table two wine glasses from the previous night have attracted small flying insects.
Late last evening I received some text messages from close friends wishing me well in my new endeavours.
Since yesterday, I have not only grown, as most do, in age but have also grown into a Nationalist Party candidate.
I am still getting acquainted with this new reality in my life.
Now that I have given my word to the Prime Minister I cannot let him down. He deserves full cooperation, total commitment and unequivocal support.
I shall strive with all my might to ensure that this small island continues to sail on the charted course that has proved to be mostly successful. My new captain, with almost all hands on deck at all times, has mastered bad weather and succeeded. When, last October, I left the trade union movement, much as it was a difficult decision, I felt that the time has come for me to move on.
I wanted to take on a new challenge. It was natural for me after a long, active career, leading the largest independent general trade union, to set a research-based consultancy related to workers, employment and the many other ancillary activities emanating from the relationship between an employer and a worker or a group of workers.
During my time at the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin I always distinguished between the roles and functions of a trade union and that of any political party.
Such distinction was and still is very clear in my mind. When the two come too close, or, worse, officially tie a knot, the results are disastrous. My candidature with the PN irked some as was attested by comments posted on timesofmalta.com.
The (€21) weekly wage increase claim by the independent unions within the fold of the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions was one of the major issues that came to mind.
On this, I would like to state the correct facts.
After a six-year wage freeze introduced by the Labour Party in 1983, the leaders of the CMTU – which, at the time, was mainly made up of the UĦM, the Malta Union of Teachers, the Malta Union of Bank Employees, the Medical Association of Malta, the Lotto Receivers Union and the Chamber of Pharmacists – made a simple arithmetic calculation. Had workers received an average weekly increase of €3.50 over the period of the wage freeze, workers would have been better off by €21 at the end of the wage freeze.
The General Workers’ Union did not put up a fight on this issue as, at the time, they were bed fellows with the PL.
Indeed, it is appropriate to note that, at the time, a price freeze was also in force and bulk buying introduced. The then Labour government used to announce reduction in prices of food items during the annual Budget speech.
That was part of the social policy introduced under the Labour government, a socialist economic tool that failed miserably all round.
During that same period, workers could seek employment opportunities within a number of disciplinary corps. The right to join a trade union was barred.
One of the corps offered a weekly salary of €23.30 and anyone who would learn to read or write in either English or Maltese was entitled to another €11.65.
These were the PL’s employment policies and no amount of trying and effort by some timesofmalta.com commentators could rewrite Labour’s failed policies.
On the other hand, the PN secured Malta’s accession to the EU. Those who militated against this were eventually proved wrong.
The PN, the prime mover of this historic event, had an opposition that was vociferous against EU membership and promoted the notion of a ‘Switzerland in the Mediterranean’.
Social, economic, political and environmental experts were summoned to research the various options available. All research carried out and made available to the public concluded that Malta’s accession to the EU would outweigh by far any difficulties emanating from membership.
The PL failed miserably in this test too and, today, it is led by the person who, at the time, failed to see what was best in the national interest.
Today, we all appreciate the benefits of accession as they become tangible. We all whine and moan because major roads are closed due to a massive EU project that is now coming to fruition.
The various employment and training initiatives implemented by the Employment Training Corporation also demonstrate the benefits that many workers have gained through such programmes and which are substantially funded by the EU.
Though it is no secret that the PN did commit some venial sins, I believe that this party is the best option for Malta. Now that I have left the trade union activity I can support the party that, in my opinion, is best equipped to lead this island forward. The PN has the capabilities and the necessary credentials.
I am sure that political parties need more than just crowds of supporters eager to fly their flags high and play party tunes as loud as possible. Political parties need to devise economic and social strategies and policies that ensure that the quality of life of people is improved.
The PN has proved it has what it takes.