The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: Cushy jobs?

Friday, 14 June 2024, 09:27 Last update: about 2 months ago

A particular statement the Prime Minister made on party media last Monday has opened the door to many questions, and also much criticism.

Abela, during the interview, questioned "how sensitive are we truly when people come to us, not for unjustified personal favours, but when there is a justified pain?"

He warned everyone in government structures that they could not expect a cushy job.  "We are either there to be of service for the people, or we are there to serve the people when it comes to legitimate needs (...) I have heard too many episodes of people who when it comes to what is truly legitimate, where the state by right must adhere to what is being requested, would say they weren't contacted back. We are there to serve people."

The Prime Minister’s statement was taken to be blaming, at least partially, the outcome of the elections last Saturday, where the vote gap between the PN and PL shrunk significantly, on government workers.

His statement raises so many questions. Firstly, what sections of government workers is he referring to exactly? Is he referring to admin staff? Is he referring to heads of departments and agencies? Was his statement partially in reference to the medical sector? Is he referring to customer care departments, which we know have been a controversial issue in the past? Is he admitting that the government has hired people into certain posts who are not actually doing any real work? What exactly is he saying.

Will his statement lead to some trying to rush through support requests with the result that checks and balances would not be as strong as they should be?

His statement that those with legitimate needs, where the state is dutybound to help, should be helped is of course true. People should not have to stay chasing if they are entitled to something by right, but checks and balances need to be in place, and a lax structure could lead to the same situation we saw with benefit abuse.

One must also ask, is the Prime Minister saying that there have been people with cushy jobs off the taxpayer’s dime for years and that he is only realizing it now?

The Prime Minister’s statement raises many questions and concerns.

The PN spoke out against his comment, and one of Malta’s major trade unions, UHM – Voice of the Workers, was quite irked by his message.

The union’s CEO, Josef Vella, said that he and the civil service workers, were shocked to hear the Prime Minister’s statement, “identifying the civil service workers as the problem for the loss of more than 34,000 votes. This is a surreal situation. I would have expected the Prime Minister to mention many reasons as to why the PL lost that majority (…) but we never dreamt that it would be the Prime Minister to identify the Civil Service as the problem.” He pointed out that there are people within the civil service who are being more careful now as to how they carry out their duties and responsibilities. “We need to understand that two former Permanent Secretaries are facing criminal charges in court,” he said, adding that one cannot blame any permanent secretary for being cautious and only following legitimate orders. He said that this surely isn’t a problem caused by the civil service workers.

Indeed public sector officials must always abide by the law, and so one understands that they would be more cautious now that criminal court action has been taken for alleged wrongdoing by past and present officials. But the reality is that this situation was brought about because of a questionable deal which politicians made which has been annulled. Now the courts will judge who is innocent and who is guilty.

One also points out that just recently the government spent over €600,000 on a Public Service Expo, thus showing how happy it was with the Civil Service. What changed since then?

 

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