The Malta Independent 22 May 2019, Wednesday

Contractor only getting 500 Turkish workers, and only 60 have arrived so far – PM

Sunday, 24 February 2019, 12:12 Last update: about 4 months ago

A contractor who is bringing Turkish construction workers to work on a Sliema project will only be bringing 500 workers, and only 60 have arrived so far, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday morning.

Speaking on One Radio, the PM said, however, that the government would not accept the exploitation of foreign workers, or the use of legal loopholes that would put Maltese workers at a disadvantage.

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Earlier this week it was reported that a contractor was bringing some 2,500 workers to Malta to work on the Fortina project in Sliema as well as other projects, including the Marsa junction.

Muscat said many “fables” were being bandied about, pointing out that the contractor in question had nothing to do with the Marsa project.

“The situation is this: until around 5 years ago, for every 100 workers in the construction sector, six were foreigners. Now, seven out of every hundred are foreigners. The increase is significant but the sector is still dominated by the Maltese.”

Muscat said he had spoken to Jobs Plus about the Sliema project contractor. The contractor has told the jobs agency that it will only be importing 500 Turkish workers to Malta, and that only sixty have arrived so far. These workers are currently waiting for their work and residency permits to be issued.

“My main concern was about how these workers will be accommodated and what they will get paid,” Muscat said, adding that it was unacceptable for workers to be housed in tents.

“If the laws about suitable accommodation are not observed, the permits will not be issued and if they have already been issued, they will be withdrawn. The contractor has been warned about this.”

Muscat said Malta had to abide by the EU’s Posting of Workers Directive, which regulates how EU companies can post workers to other EU member states. While it has been said that the directive needs to be changed, no third-country contractor will be allowed to use legal loopholes in order to exploit workers or place Maltese workers and companies at an unfair advantage, he said.

Muscat also spoke about a recent report that showed that criminality had decreased, despite the increase in population. He pointed to a recent EU survey that had shown that, despite the “systematic attack” in the last three years on the police force, almost 70% of Maltese have confidence in the police.

He also referred to the recent spate of graffiti vandalism, adding that the police were conducting a serious investigation into the matter.

Turning to the environment, Muscat said the government had identified a 30,000 sqm piece of land in Benghajsa, near Birzebbuga, where thousands of trees would be planted.

Referring to rumours that this was being done to offset an expansion by the Freeport, the PM said there are plans for the port facility to be extended through outward land reclamation, which would meant that its industrial operations would move further away from residents.

He also spoke about the waste separation scheme. Over 7,000 tonnes of organic waste are now being collected separately – which means that black bag waste has gone down by some 25%

People have been given a chance to get used to the new system but enforcement must now be stepped up, he said, adding that the plastic bottle return scheme will be in place by the end of this year.

The country would not decide on a changeover date for electric vehicles. “We want to be among the first countries in Europe to do this. We have already reduced emissions from energy production –now we need to cut down on emissions produced by traffic. There will be a date in 7, 8 or 10 years’ time where all cars imported into the country will have to be electric or any other clean technology.”

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