Court turns down PN request to evict GWU from Workers’ Memorial Building over sub-lets

Court turns down PN’s 2017 request to evict GWU from Workers Memorial Building over sub-let to ARMS and Sciacca Grill

Workers’ Memorial Building
Workers’ Memorial Building

The General Workers Union fended off an attempt by the Nationalist Party to evict Malta’s largest trade union from its historic Valletta headquarters, developed over the last decades on a public land concession granted to it by the State in 1957.

The courts turned down the requests made by the PN’s parliamentary group in a legal case filed in 2017 by its former leader Simon Busuttil, to have the GWU evicted from the Workers’ Memorial Building over a breach of the emphyteutical agreement.

Magistrate Mark Simiana decreed that while ARMS Limited – the billing company owned by Enemalta and the Water Services Corporation – and the restaurant Sciacca Grill could not continue their operations under a sub-let of the GWU’s ground-floor shop-fronts, the PN’s pretensions for eviction fell squarely outside the law.

The court said any requests invoking eviction were “superfluous” given that this was a special and exceptional action that could not be contemplated under the action filed by the Nationalist Party.

This was the GWU’s second court victory since a Constitutional Court in December 2018 found the union’s right to a fair hearing had been breached when Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima refused to recuse herself from the case, due to her familiarity with the plaintiff’s lawyers from the Fenech & Fenech law firm.

GWU Secretary-General Joseph Bugeja expressed his satisfaction at the court verdict. “The effect of this court decision today is that the Workers’ Memorial Building is here to stay, to be enjoyed by workers and their families and GWU members, allowing this trade union to continue working as a shield for workers’ rights.”

In 1957, the government granted the GWU the Workers’ Memorial Building on a perpetual emphyteusis as a site on which it can build its headquarters for trade union activities and its Union Press. A parliamentary resolution in 1997 amended the lease, allowing the union to rent our parts of the property to other companies – but only to those in which it is a majority shareholder.

However, a NAO report in 2015 found that the GWU had breached the conditions of its government lease when it rented out part of the building to state-owned utilities company ARMS and the Sciacca Grill steakhouse