Update 2 | TACA construction workers claim they have not been paid in months

Group of 80 Turkish builders employed by TACA to work on Fortina project say they haven’t received their wages in five months • Fortina has honoured all financial obligations to TACA, is engaging with Turkish company to ensure workers' rights safeguarded

Turkish workers employed by TACA at the Fortina construction site. Photo: James Bianchi
Turkish workers employed by TACA at the Fortina construction site. Photo: James Bianchi

Updated at 4:15pm with statement from Department of Industrial and Employment Relations

A group of Turkish construction workers recruited by an international construction company to work on the Fortina project have claimed they have received no payment for their services for the past months.

Photo: James Bianchi
Photo: James Bianchi

The group of around 80 are employed by TACA Construction, a Turkish company which brought them over to Malta in November last year to work on the project in Sliema.

Speaking to MaltaToday, the workers said that they had not been paid for any of their work for the past five months.

Photo: James Bianchi
Photo: James Bianchi

“We are given a bed to sleep in and food to eat, but it sucks. They are giving us no money,” the workers said.

Despite complaining to their TACA supervisors, the workers said that the situation has persisted. “They say they have no money. They are not interested in us,” they said.

The workers were gathered together when MaltaToday visited the construction site, and work was not taking place.

At this stage, they said they wanted to be paid and leave Malta to go back home to Turkey. “We just want to be paid and go home.”

Some of the workers also complained that their living conditions were not ideal, and that cleanliness was lacking.

MaltaToday has reached out to TACA - which, apart from the Fortina project, is undertaking other development projects in Malta - for comments and is awaiting a reply.

Fortina honoured all financial obligations to TACA

In a statement this afternoon, Fortina Investments said that it wished to clarify that all its financial obligations to TACA had been honoured.

The company underlined that the construction workers were in the employ of TACA, not of Fortina. 

"Fortina investments refers to media reports stating that workers on its site in Sliema have not been paid."

"The company wishes to clarify that the workers in question are employed by Turkish company TACA Construction, not Fortina."

Fortina added that it was disappointed that TACA had allegedly not been paying its workers, and said that it was treating the matter very seriously.

"Fortina Contracting Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Fortina Investments, has honoured and is in line with all its financial obligations to TACA Construction for the approved civil works undertaken on the development to date, and is very disappointed that the Turkish company has allegedly not paid its workers the wages that are due to them."

"Fortina is treating this situation with utmost seriousness and is doing everything it can to ensure workers’ rights are safeguarded."

In comments to MaltaToday, Fortina group's CEO Edward Zammit Tabona said that Fortina had always paid TACA, and had in fact even given payments in advance.

He stressed that it was TACA which had failed to pay the workers their dues.

In the years of Fortina's operation, it had never once missed any payments to anyone, Zammit Tabona said.

"Fortina to date has paid TACA Construction over and above the fees for the certified works on site, at times even paying suppliers directly on their behalf in order for progress to keep on moving onsite," he said.

He said Fortina had been made aware of this situation recently and had been pushing TACA to resolve their issues concerning workers' salaries - including through engaging with the Turkish company through its legal team. "Fortina has made it clear with TACA that no form of compromise is acceptable with worker's rights, and that alleged issues should be resolved forthwith," Zammit Tabona said.

TACA’s employees have stopped works on site, he noted, adding that "Fortina has solicited TACA to present a proper plan rectifying the situation and is yet to hear from TACA."

Watchdog investigating

On Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations said it was investigating the matter. DIER serves as a watchdog on employment conditions. "The DIER is looking into the matter and investigating this case," a statement released by the ministry within the Office of the Prime Minister said.