MaltaToday | 16 July 2008 | Feltom predicts ‘absolute disaster’ if strike proceeds

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NEWS | Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Feltom predicts ‘absolute disaster’ if strike proceeds

Raphael Vassallo

Tourism was among the casualties of this week’s strike, and the hardest hit segment was arguably the foreign language schools: widely acknowledged as the fastest growing area in an industry which accounts for one third of the island’s GDP.
Andrew Mangion, president of the language school federation Feltom, told MaltaToday that if the strike were to be prolonged for more than a few days, the result would be catastrophic for the industry as a whole.
“We’ve called upon our various members and are now in a position to make an accurate assessment of the situation,” he told MaltaToday over the phone from the airport yesterday, where several hundred newly arrived students found themselves stranded as a result of the strike.
“The least affected sector so far is the adult students. These seem to be getting to school somehow or other... mostly on foot, although there are host families which are helping out where they can. In the case of junior students, the situation is more serious. Some of those in host families are being driven to school, but the ones in residences who have to rely on buses or coaches have no option but to stay where they are. At this point we can safely say that several thousand students will not get to school today.”
Mangion added that apart from paralysing the schools themselves, extra-curricular activities such as daytime and evening excursions have had to be cancelled, with a knock-on affect on other sectors.
Already directly affected by the lack of buses, many schools have also lost the services of UBS – a private coach company which is not participating in the industrial action, but owing to the lack of security on Maltese roads over the past two days, yesterday announced that none of its coaches will be operating until the situation is brought back to normal.
Asked how the language school sector would be affected in the long term if the strike action was extended to days, possibly even weeks, Mangion answered in two succinct words: “Absolute disaster”.
“There’s no doubt about it, if things don’t get back to normal very soon the entire sector will be seriously affected. We’re in the highest part of high season, and it is extremely difficult to move students about. There is already talk of cancellations of pre-booked trips... which is understandable, considering the negative publicity on media such as Youtube. If you’re sending your 14-year old child to a country where there is trouble, you might consider changing your plans.
“The important thing is to re-establish law and order, so that coaches can get back to work without the threat of violence to their drivers or passengers,” Andrew Mangion concluded.

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