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NEWS | Wednesday, 06 August 2008

Shipyard talks fail, government issues retirement schemes today

The government will go ahead with early retirement schemes for Malta Shipyards as talks with the General Workers Union yesterday afternoon failed, once again.
Finance minister Tonio Fenech and GWU secretary-general Tony Zarb yesterday held an impromptu two-hour meeting in a bid to seek agreement over the privatisation of the Malta Shipyards.
Zarb has exhorted shipyard workers not to accept government’s early retirement schemes before they know who the buyer for the shipyards will be, and what their future in the privatised shipyards would be.
Tony Zarb yesterday told reporters that government was not ready to keep its electoral promise not to have any lay-offs at the shipyards.
He said that while the union agreed with the early retirement schemes, it was not agreeing with terms being offered.
Zarb also said the union was against government’s plans to issue the retirement schemes immediately, or before the new owners of Malta Shipyards are known.
The GWU has been accused by the finance minister of not coming up with its own proposals.
Fenech told reporters the government was standing by its belief that the shipyards had to be downsized if it was to be made more attractive to prospective buyers.
He said no jobs could be guaranteed for workers at the Malta Shipyards who did not take up the schemes.
The expression of interest for the sale of the dockyard will be issued next Monday and the schemes will be issued immediately.
The four schemes will be based on those previously issued in 2003, adjusted for inflation. Some 900 workers were give a golden handshake in 2003, and then transferred to a surrogate company, IPSL, and kept on the government’s payroll.
The IPSL took in all remaining workers from the surplus 900 after having been offered voluntary retirement schemes.
In 2003, the early retirement schemes available were for: workers aged 56 and over, offered a retirement scheme on a two-thirds pension; 15 weeks’ pay for every year to those aged between 50 and 55, with an option for a two-thirds pension when they reach 56; those aged between 40 and 49 offered an ex-gratia payment equivalent to 3.25 times their current basic salary, capped at Lm17,000; those under 40 offered eight weeks’ pay for every year of service capped at Lm12,000 for those with more than 15 years service, or Lm10,000 with less, with a minimum at Lm5,000.

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