[WATCH] Clyde Caruana loses Jobsplus as Abela shuffles portfolios in Sofia Inquiry aftermath

Prime Minister takes Jobsplus away from Clyde Caruana and shifts it to Byron Camilleri for 'better coordination' of permits for foreign workers • Equality and reforms shifted to Chris Fearne's portfolio

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela
Clyde Caruana plays down loss of jobs portfolio

Clyde Caruana has lost the Jobsplus agency from his purview as the Prime Minister shuffled two portfolios in direct response to the Sofia Inquiry findings.

The Jobsplus agency has been transferred to Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri for greater coordination with Identità on the importation of foreign workers.

The surprise announcement was made on Thursday in a statement by the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Finance Minister’s jobs portfolio, which includes Jobsplus, was hived off completely and transferred to Camilleri’s ministry. The move could be interpreted as a snub to Caruana, who was the architect of the post-2013 influx of foreign workers as the country experienced an economic boom.

The Sofia Inquiry commented negatively on the lax controls adopted by Jobsplus when accepting applications for foreign workers from companies and the lack of coordination with Identità that issues the residence permit.

“Today’s decision is primarily being taken to strengthen the coordination between government entities,” the OPM statement said without making reference to the inquiry findings.

Byron Camilleri has been tasked with building on the “important work” started by Caruana on the national labour policy, the statement reads.

With Camilleri now taking on the jobs portfolio alongside home affairs and national security, the Prime Minister removed the equality and reforms portfolio, headed by Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg, from under his wing. This has been transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne.

Fearne’s portfolio now includes European funds, equality, reforms and social dialogue. Apart from Buttigieg, the minister also has Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul serving under his wing.

Fearne’s new portfolio will be up for grabs later this year when he resigns to become Malta’s next European Commissioner. This could pave the way for either Buttigieg or Ellul to be elevated to minister.

Clyde Caruana: 'I will continue to work for country's good'

Speaking to journalists at Parliament on Thursday, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said he respects Abela's decision to reshuffle the two portofolios, and he looks forward to work towards the good of the country.

"All I can say is that there are many other commitments in the Finance portfolio, and I will continue to work for the good of the country," he said.

PN reaction

The Nationalist Party in a statement said the removal of the jobs portfolio from Caruana's ministry was a vote of no confidence by the Prime Minister in his finance minister.

"This is another confirmation of the friction that was on display between Robert Abela and Clyde Caruana over the past weeks. This shows how Robert Abela's government is only reactive and has no direction," the PN said.

What did the Sofia Inquiry say on foreign workers and Jobsplus?

The inquiry called for administrative practices to be revisited and legal changes made to ensure better scrutiny of applications for work permits by employers for third country nationals, including effective verification of foreign competency certificates.

The inquiry was scathing in its remarks on Jobsplus: “TCN’s working in construction not only do not have a skill card but are almost unable to speak English that is understandable. Their entry into Malta is without practical and real control because Jobsplus rests almost exclusively on what the employer declares in terms of competence and skills possessed by the prospective employee… the impression the [inquiry] board got of Jobsplus’s management of TCNs is one of abject failure.”

READ ALSO: Here's what the Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry recommends