Forum suggests government tenders should be awarded to ‘two contractors’

MCESD continues discussing precarious employment with unions calling for intervention and prevention.

Minister Helena Dalli attending a meeting of the MCESD.
Minister Helena Dalli attending a meeting of the MCESD.

Government tenders should be awarded to two contractors, with 70% going to the first cheapest and 30% to the second cheapest, Forum said today.

The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) met today at the Phoenicia hotel for the second in a series of discussions about precarious work. Minister Helena Dalli was in attendance.

According to the Forum Unions Maltin presentation, delivered by its president Paul Pace, the government's objective to reduce government work force in 1992 led to promotion of precarious practices which are still being felt today.
These included the practice of awarding public tenders to first cheapest offers, which led to some agencies resorting to "camouflaged" precarity. For example, while they appeared to be paying minimm wage, they may have requested return payment for things like uniforms, payslips and equipment maintenance.
Pace also emphasised the inhumanity of the hire and fire aspect, wherein employees used to be afraid to defend themselves when accused with malpractice, or to complain about unfair conditions, for fear of losing their jobs.
The Forum gave its list of recommendations, which included a new criteria for the awarding of tenders, which focused on profits and the running contract, rather than on who could provide the cheapest offer.

It also said workers should be guaranteed an indefinite contract, and should be employed by the incoming agency when a new tender comes into action.

It said the hire and fire policy should end outright and should be replaced by a disciplinary board which is independent from the employer.

"Salaries should not be used as a means of competition in order to win a contract," Pace added.

GWU representative Michael Parnis said the GWU report showed results of a survey conducted among 390 workers, of whom 12.4% felt their work was precarious, and over 51% felt their salary was inadequate for today's cost of living.
GWU proposed the appointment of a commissioner for the quality of work, who would be responsible for investigating and reporting cases of precarity, and scrutinising public tenders.
GWU also agreed the cheapest offer rule should be abolished.
MEA director general Joe Farrugia reiterated there was currently no definition for precarious employment, but a list of practices which could lead to precarity.
He insisted that part time work does not necessarily mean precarity, as the majority of people which work part time do so voluntarily. The same, he said, goes for definite contracts.
Farrugia also said that Malta already had ample legislation to protect against illegal work, and instead there should be a focus on enforcing that legislation. In the case of unethical work practice, he said unions should be taking necessary action.
He recommended the endorsement of the Services Charter recommended by the MEA, and also insisted workers should be allowed to join unions, as per the right of association.
The UHM then gave its presentation, which focused on the importance of agreeing on a definition for precarity, to avoid misunderstandings between social partners.
It said the way forward was through a strategy which combined intervention and prevention, and said this depended on the input of all social partners.
Concluding, MCESD chairman John Bencini said the groups should focus on the many common points which were evident in the presentations.

"This is an unprecedented venture into finding a way to tackle precarity," said Bencini, adjourning the discussion until next Monday.

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A Abela
"He insisted that part time work does not necessarily mean precarity, as the majority of people which (who) work part time do so voluntarily". Does Mr Frrugia really mean and believe what he is saying? Precarious work, whether taken up voluntarily or not remains precarious. It's the conditions of work that makes it precarious, that is to say abusive and not the employee's "choice???". MEA's argument is completely flawed. It also infers that abusive terms of employment are being practiced by MEA members. The Unions must stand their ground.

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