Muscat refuses Busuttil’s claim of 4,400 increase in public sector jobs

Opposition says government committed itself to 1,500 reduction in public sector workforce

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: Ray Attard)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: Ray Attard)

The government is insisting that public sector employment has increased by 2,420 employees and not 4,400, as claimed by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.

The government said that NSO data shows that the public sector employed 41,519 full-time workers at the start of the legislature, with the number increasing to 43,939 by end-June 2014.

The government said that among the 2,420 increase were 959 employed in the formerly privately operated public transport operation, which was later nationalised at the start of 2014. It said these employees will be returning to the private sector once a new operation is in place.

“From the 1,461 remaining employees, contrary to what Busuttil is claiming, the majority are new workers in the health and education sectors, which have seen an increase of 970 full-time jobs,” the government said.

The government added that the reported 3,300 increase in workers in public administration is down to an NSO reclassification of public sector employment in construction, which were transferred from the former resources ministry to either the environment or transport ministries under the new administration. Subsequently, the public sector employment in construction decreased under this reclassification.

“Busuttil is also incorrect in saying that 350 new employees between May and June were not educational or health professionals: NSO data shows an increase of 200 such employees in these two sectors. Malta’s unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% compared to eth 6.5% average under the former administration, and between January and September 2014, the number of people registering for work went down by almost 1,200. Full-time jobs increased by 17 every day in the last sixteen months.”

The Opposition is insisting that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is being untrue about the data, citing the report ‘Malta: Report on Effective Action’ published in October 2013, in which the government made an EU commitment not to replace 1,500 retiring government employees.

According to the report, the government had committed itself to “restart the practice of restricting recruitment and reducing public sector employment through attrition” and restrict the replacement of retirees and resignations by a ratio of 2:3. “Health and education will be excluded from this exercise. It is to be noted that every year there are roughly 1,500 public sector employees who retire or resign from their posts. This policy would effectively reduce public sector employment by around 500 per annum. This policy will be reviewed every year. Potential savings from this policy could amount to around €4.9 million in 2014 and additional savings in subsequent years.”

The PN said that instead of having seen a decrease of 2,000 retiring workers over the past 16 months, these were effectively ‘replaced’ and then increased by 2,420 employees.

“The logical conclusion is that in 16 months, Muscat employed 4,420 employees with the public sector. He is lying just as he did when he said he would resign if he doesn’t have a power station constructed within the next four months.”

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