The government’s decision to grant the Forum Unions Maltin a seat in the Malta Council of Economic and Social Development (MCESD) represents a major shift in its position on this issue following its decision in January last year to vote against a similar proposal put forward by Labour MP Gino Cauchi.
Addressing the House during that debate on 10 January, 2011, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had expressed his concern that such a move would have been deemed as a form of imposition on the social partners forming part of the MCESD. “The bill is conceptually dangerous and should not be the way to a solution” the Prime Minister had stated. Subsequently he had presented a lengthy amendment to the bill suggesting, among others, that the government should continue to work for a solution while appealing for MCESD members to take part in discussions.
The bill tabled originally in July 2010 by the Labour MP stated that since its creation the Act creating the MCESD had never been amended to reflect the developments that had taken place. The Opposition had described the government’s stance, that new members in the MCESD should be admitted by consensus of its members, as an excuse and that the real reasons were politically motivated.
The government formally announced its intention of submitting the first reading of a bill to amend the legislation concerning the MCESD on Sunday evening, following a recent meeting with Forum representatives. During this meeting, the Prime Minister promised that the government would legislate to accommodate the Forum’s demand.
The amendment announced provides also for the inclusion of two other members on the MCESD – a representative from Gozo and another one from civil society.
According to the government’s statement, these developments are a direct result of social dialogue within the MCESD, which included the setting up of a committee representing civil society and the Regional Committee for Gozo 2008.
Regarding the reasons behind Forum’s inclusion, government attributed its change of heart due to its adhesion to the European Trades Union Council (ETUC) in April last year. Up to the beginning of this year, government was still not budging from its position, with the Forum accusing it of dragging its feet to find a solution.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Gino Cauchi yesterday branded the government’s decision to include Forum in the MCESD as one of political convenience, on the eve of a general election. He said that this decision totally contradicts what the government said a year ago in parliament and confirms that the Labour Party was right about the issue.
Similarly, the General Workers’ Union (GWU), while welcoming the government’s decision, expressed its doubts whether this was really out of conviction or rather due to political convenience. The GWU said that in 2007 it had made such a proposal which included a bigger representation from the civil society than the government’s proposal.
In other developments, the Grupp Universitarju Gћawdxin (GUG) welcomed the news of a Gozitan representative in the MCESD. It said that this will contribute for better and a more direct dialogue.