The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Abela did not learn from Sofia inquiry, Grech says regarding proposed Workplace Safety Bill

Isaac Saliba Tuesday, 9 July 2024, 19:34 Last update: about 7 days ago

It seems that all Prime Minister Robert Abela learned from the Sofia inquiry was that it concluded that the possibility of workplace deaths cannot be totally removed, Nationalist Party Leader Bernard Grech said

He spoke in Parliament, during a discussion about a proposed Workplace Health and Safety Bill on Tuesday.

Grech said that the PN had told the government that there is a need for all the Sofia inquiry recommendations to be implemented. He continued that the PN had told the government that there is a time limit on the matter, "as each passing day is an added risk for someone to be hurt or die".

The Opposition Leader referred to the public outcry for the Sofia public inquiry a year ago as a "crusade", through which the Maltese and Gozitan people joined up in full support of Sofia's parents.

"The government was made to finally accept a public inquiry into the death of a youth ... the death of a son of this nation."

Grech remarked that it is the decisions that one makes in moments of truth that define the type of politician they are. "Choosing what is right, not what is convenient for you." He added that people should never forget their past, as they are destined to live through it again if they forget. "The PN voted in favour of a public inquiry... The PL did not want the full truth of the Sofia case to be revealed."

Grech said that every government has a responsibility to be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to the life and health of workers. He continued that this notion is why the PN has been strong in its criticism in past years, "when we see a government which has not only not been proactive, but not even reactive".

He said everyone deserves to be safe or protected, and that Parliament has an obligation to see to it that this is the case for workers.

Speaking directly about the proposed bill itself, Grech said that it has its good points, but that it could have been much better and that the PN indicated how it could have been better to the government.

He referred to a statement made earlier in the day by the Union for Health and Safety Practitioners, and he said that the statement described how the union expressed disappointment that it "was not consulted enough," and that it felt it could have given more ideas for the bill to have the expected effect and results.

"You never learn... this is a government which throws away everyone's opinion and does not even listen to experts," Grech commented.

He said that the government did not enact the recommendations of the Sofia inquiry despite saying that it would attempt to do so. He remarked that the government has a problem of perceived superiority and that it is never prepared to give an honest apology after making a mistake.

"The bill is incomplete... you know that you are leaving things incomplete."

The Opposition Leader concluded by saying that his request is clear. "It is an appeal for accountability and for progress. No more dragging of feet."

Jonathan Attard, the Minister for Justice and Reform of the Construction Sector, said that the PL did take on the contributions that people made in order to improve the proposed bill. He remarked that there is nothing in the world that cannot be improved.

Attard continued that the bill encompasses the workplace in general, and is not exclusive to the construction sector. He also said that the bill will result in the Occupational Health and Safety Authority being more efficient and effective in its work, and added that the authority is also recruiting more employees in tandem with the proposed bill.


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