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Arriva drivers break away from GWU, form house union

Interim president Samuel Grech says GWU failed to safeguard drivers’ rights.

Miriam Dalli
2 July 2012, 12:00am
The new PTU says the General Workers Union has been ineffective in its efforts to improve working conditions.
As revealed by MaltaToday two months ago170 Arriva drivers have formed their own trade union after disagreeing with the collective agreement being negotiated with Arriva by the General Workers' Union (GWU).

The Public Transport Union (PTU), as the house union is called, already has 170 members, 100 of which have already resigned from the GWU. PTU said that more resignations from the trade union were expected in the coming days.

Speaking to MaltaToday, PTU interim president Samuel Grech said that GWU had failed to safeguard the workers' rights.

"This is not an act against the GWU, but we are uniting to fight for our rights," Grech insisted, adding that the drivers were in disagreement with the way the GWU had negotiated their collective agreement.

By way of example, Grech said that the financial package being requested by the GWU did not live up to the work the drivers carried out. "All the time we hear Tony Zarb talking about precariousness and yet the salary the union was requesting doesn't reflect the work we do," Grech said.

In a statement the PTU said that during the negotiations there was lack of agreement between the committee of employees and the secretary of the maritime and GWU transport section secretary Charles Agius.

It added that the majority of the committee members showed their disapproval about the situation several times besides contesting Agius's competence.

As soon as the new union was registered with the Registrar of Trade Unions, around 100 members sent their resignation letter to GWU secretary-general Tony Zarb.

A copy of the resignation letters was also sent to Industrial Relations Director Noel Vella.

The PTU added that in the coming days, several other employees were expected to resign from the GWU and become its members.

Reacting to the setting-up of the house union, Zarb told MaltaToday that the drivers should "be wary of attempts to divide the workforce with the promise of conditions that are unattainable".

"The people who are trying to divide the drivers are the same who are filling their heads with exaggerated promises which no serious union would dare demand," Zarb said.

He added that whoever convinced the drivers to break away from the GWU was "serving Arriva".

Meanwhile, in a statement the GWU insisted that it would still remain the largest workers' representative within the public transport operator and would continue to work hard to conclude the first collective agreement for all Arriva workers.

The GWU said that a number of individuals who convinced the drivers to leave GWU were promising them a 60% salary rise.

"Such promises are not only irresponsible but also serve to deceive the workers," he said.

The GWU also warned the drivers against empty promises being made to them.

Last May, MaltaToday reported that public transport drivers, aided by President's son Robert Abela, were in talks to form a house union as they did not agree with the financial requests put forward by the union.

Miriam Dalli graduated in communications studies from the University of ...
charles philip zammit
well done arriva u managed to put a wedge between the workers and their union. and now like the port workers before them, the arriva drivers have deemed it fit to set up a house union. this is the way forward for employers devide and rule. the workers will realise in due time at their own expense that unfortunately they took the wrong step.