The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

Indepth: ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ does not apply anymore, developers association boss says

INDEPTH online Friday, 3 May 2019, 09:11 Last update: about 3 years ago

Registry of qualified construction workers should be made public – Alex Torpiano

Malta Developer's Association President Sandro Chetcuti captured the eyes and ears of many when he told developers that they should "make hay while the sun shines", but now, four years later, that phrase does not apply anymore, the same Chetcuti said on the latest episode of Indepth.

Asked by The Malta Independent Editor-in-Chief Rachel Attard about whether "the sun is still shining", Chetcuti explained that the context of the phrase back then was because there was a low appetite for investment, despite the fact that a number of positive measures to aid the construction industry had been introduced.

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"They had to work and seize the moment - that was the spirit of my 'make hay while the sun shines' statement", Chetcuti said.

Now however, the statement no longer applies, the MDA President said.  This is because there is currently a market which is bursting with activity, and the next effort has to be done not to encourage more investment, but to improve the quality of the final product.

Alex Torpiano, the Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment and the new President of Din L-Art Helwa, meanwhile said that there is the need for a public registry that can be used to ascertain whether a person within the construction industry - be it a builder, plasterer, plumber or anything else - has the necessary qualifications to be working on these sites.

Torpiano said that at the moment there is no publicly available means in place that can be used to check the standard of Maltese workers, let alone of the foreign workers that are coming into the country to work in the construction industry.

"It is not a problem at all that they are foreign - the problem is that a lot of the time they are not trained", Torpiano said.

He noted that as things stand, the Mason's Board does not publish whether a worker is licensed or not due to data protection issues, adding that this system is wrong and that every other profession uses a public registry.

Chetcuti at this point said that the MDA has long insisted in the need for more skills training, and said that they had convinced the government to implement a system which makes use of skills cards wherein workers have to have basic knowledge about health and safety measures and about skills within the industry.  There is currently a five year transitory period, of which there is around a year and a half left, ongoing for all workers to obtain this card - after then, Chetcuti said, contractors will be obliged to employ only workers in possession of this card, otherwise they will be penalised and the worker will be suspended.

Torpiano, whilst saying that this was a good and much needed initiative, said that the registry of people with this card must be made public; something which Chetcuti later said he had no problem with.

Torpiano also noted during the at times lively, debate that he did not want to pin the blame for accidents at construction sites at anyone's specific feet, but noted that it is the fault of the industry as a whole.  He said that part of the problem is that the industry is moving at a hurried pace, and when one is in a hurry, there is more chance of making mistakes. 

"Yes it is a dangerous industry, but it is unacceptable that every week there is an accident [at a construction site]", he said.

Chetcuti here pointed out that incidents and fatalities on construction sites had decreased significantly since 2009 even though construction activity has increased by two-and-a-half times since then.

Torpiano however stuck to his guns; "There is something wrong in the industry and we can either negate it and say that there are less getting injured and dying, or look at the system and see whether we are happy with it; and we are not happy with it".


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