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Opinion | Wednesday, 03 March 2010 Issue. 153

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This anti-union stance is just political bullying

Before last Sunday’s demonstration in Valletta, Radio 101 and NET news bulletins told us that – surprise, surprise – the Nationalist Party’s MEP candidate Vince Farrugia and Paul Abela of the GRTU were not taking part in the protest. Neither is the Union Ħaddiema Maqghudin. Nor were the employers’ organisations, who never take part in demonstrations anyway. The message is supposed to be that since these decided to sit on the fence, everyone else should do the same. And then, more hype about ‘dawk li se jnizzlu n-nies fit-toroq’. Gosh how nasty of them. Only criminals do that.
We also had the odd editorial or two in The Times telling us how brave and courageous Lawrence Gonzi is and that a simple demonstration is, hear this, “Not in the national interest.” This phrase, having been often used by Dom Mintoff himself, is nowadays only used in Iran, Belorussia, Burma and China to rubbish and silence the totalitarian regimes’ critics.
Then we had the usual tit-for-tat between eternal rivals, the UĦM and GWU, copying as always, the rivalry between PN and PL. The most worrying of all however is the bullying and rubbishing of other unions such as the Malta Union of Teachers and the Malta Union and Midwives and Nurses. The attacks, some of them covert and some of them not so covert on unions who choose to organise and take part in a demonstration is to put it mildly, disgusting. The government and the Nationalist Party, which here in Malta are one and the same, have done their best to ridicule and insult all those who disagree with the way they have neglected the energy sector for years on end.
It is crystal clear. Overnight price hikes are a result of the failure of this government to tackle the issue and spread out the costs over the years. Now, with its back against the wall we are being told to pay for the government’s incompetence and negligence overnight. The PN and its usual allies have the cheek to insult people for organising what is just a normal way of people expressing themselves in any normal country. But then, who said we live in a normal country?
Let me take the MUT as an example of why the PN’s schoolyard bullying attacks are unjustified and uncalled for in what is supposed to be a democratic country. This union was never afraid to stand up for what it believed in. Those of us whose parents were or are teachers know of the hardships the union and its members went through when the union had no other alternative but to call a six-week long strike in the 1980s.
The MUT, rightly, also joined other unions and political parties, namely AD and PN, in supporting Malta’s membership bid for the European Union. I remember that campaign very well, being active in AD. During that campaign various politicians from a variety of political beliefs were brought over to Malta. Obviously the Nationalist Party also used its party machinery at the time to urge its supporters to attend activities in which AD, PN, MUT, UĦM and various other union and other associations’ representatives took an active part. Rallying around an issue is nothing new in advanced democracies. In Malta it is rather rare.
Fast forward to 2010. The MUT dares disagree with the PN. A group of 12 unions dare commission a report about the utility tariffs which shows that these are unfair. These unions dare organise a demonstration. They also dare ask political parties to support them. Who is bullying whom here? The MUT and all other unions have every right to organise a demonstration. Political parties have every right to show their support. Others have every right to stay at home. The unions in the FORUM alliance are being consistent, they did what every other European Union workers’ union would do: seeking alliances on an issue which is adversely affecting their members. For acting in a European and consistent manner, not only today but throughout the years, for standing up for what they believe in the supposedly ‘European’ PN and its acolytes come out on the attack. Things never change it seems.

Ralph Cassar is secretary-general of Alternattiva Demokrtika



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