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Union demands solution from PM

General Workers Union general secretary Tony Zarb speaks to reporters outside Castille as ex-port workers call to receive payment from their pension fund. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

General Workers Union general secretary Tony Zarb speaks to reporters outside Castille as ex-port workers call to receive payment from their pension fund. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Former port workers, led by the General Workers Union, yesterday gave the Prime Minister until the end of November to find a solution to the fact that their pension fund had stopped paying out gratuities.

Standing on the steps of Castille, union general secretary Tony Zarb called on the Prime Minister to resolve the matter and set up a meeting to discuss the issue.

“It’s unacceptable that we keep on writing to the Prime Minister to meet without receiving an answer.

“The last reply we had was after we announced this protest, in which he said to pass everything to the Attorney General,” Mr Zarb told the assembled crowd or former port workers.

“But we don’t want to go to the Attorney General, we want to come to you, the Prime Minister, to find a solution to this unjustsituation,” he said.

Around 700 workers and their families want to be granted their share of the Pension and Contingency Fund, to which they had contributed in the past.

The fund, which was set up in 1974, used to be administered by port workers, shipping agents and the Government.

However, despite it having amounted to €47 million at one point, no more gratuities were issued to retiring port workers.

It is not clear what happened to the money and the union did not know how much was left of it as funds had been used for the latest port reform in 2007.

Holding up signs reading “We want what was stolen from us”, “Prime Minister, don’t you want to meet with us?” and “Injustice with port workers”, they walked from the GWU headquarters in South Street, past the newly inaugurated Piazza De Valette, to Castille where Mr Zarb presented a letter to the Prime Minister’s private secretary.

Mr Zarb said they expected the Government to treat them in the same way as the shareholders of the National Bank, with whom the Government was trying to reach an out-of-court settlement.

In the past, after every reform, port workers – including those who were retired and the heirs of those who had passed away – received a lump sum payment from the fund.

This time, former port workers did not benefit despite having contributed to the fund for years.

Mr Zarb said that the union would not cease its efforts until justice was done.

“The Prime Minister finds a lot of time to meet groups – especially now that there is a general election – and if he doesn’t want the workers to settle their scores when the election comes, then a solution should be found now”.

Mr Zarb said he would be carefully monitoring the media to see which groups met with the Prime Minister. “Why don’t you want to meet us? These people made huge sacrifices for the country.”

The message was very clear – send for the union to discuss and solve the matter as quickly as possible, Mr Zarb said.

“If you don’t want to find a solution then don’t send for us.”

The ball was in the Prime Minister’s court. “If you, Prime Minister, have power, then these people have their vote. We’re holding you res­ponsible for this injustice,” he said.

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