Former Transport Malta CEO signed ‘discriminatory’ collective agreement despite ministry’s no-go

Employees and managers at Transport Malta enraged following the discriminatory practices that followed a collective agreement signed between union and former transport CEO 

Former Transport Malta CEO James Piscopo
Former Transport Malta CEO James Piscopo

Workers and managers at Transport Malta are up in arms after discovering that a number of their colleagues, in sections represented by a different union, were granted thousands of euros in allowances and benefits under an unapproved collective agreement, MaltaToday has learned.

Sources within the authority said the collective agreement with the UHM Voice of the Workers was signed by former CEO James Piscopo, a couple of months before being appointed to head the Lands Authority.

But MaltaToday is informed that the agreement had been turned down by the Industrial Relations Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister and that it did not have the backing of the Finance Ministry – both prerequisites for any collective agreements.

The collective agreement, first presented by the UHM in an 8 December 2017 meeting with Piscopo, grants a number of non-overtime grades to be paid thousands of euros in allowances as well as 100 litres of fuel per month.

The said allowances are applicable only to around 200 employees, primarily architects and road engineers, who have since been moved to fall under Infrastructure Malta but continue to enjoy the benefits of the collective agreement sealed with Piscopo.

In addition, these employees are also being paid responsibility allowances, a 10% performance bonus, and on-call, shift and disturbance allowances.

Other employees within the same category and senior management are denied all or most of these allowances and are in dispute with Transport Malta due to the discrimination as a result of not benefiting from these allowances as their colleagues do.

Prior to this agreement the allowances were paid according to the duties and requirements as established by Transport Malta.

Sources told this newspaper that the UHM, and the General Workers’ Union – which represents employees in the merchant shipping section and the tower signal station (turretta) – had been negotiating separate agreements for their members throughout 2017.

The GWU concluded its negotiations first, signing a new collective agreement agreed upon by all parties.

The UHM stretched out its negotiations before presenting a proposed agreement on 8 December 2017. That agreement did not find the approval of the IRU or the finance ministry.

The same sources said that a number of senior architects put a lot of pressure on Piscopo to conclude the negotiations and accept the proposed agreement. Weeks before he stepped down as CEO of Transport Malta in June this year, Piscopo signed the collective agreement with the UHM for the selected employees, despite not having the IRU’s and ministry’s approval.

A number of the affected employees, mainly architects and road engineers, have since been reassigned to Infrastructure Malta but continue to enjoy the benefits granted under the agreement.

Attempts to contact the UHM section representative proved unsuccessful.

Charlie Galea, the GWU’s secretary for the professional, finances and services sector, confirmed the existence of the discriminatory agreement and said that such discrimination was unacceptable.

“We should never accept any agreement or arrangement that discriminates between workers and that places some workers at an advantage over others,” he said.

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