Updated | Environmental Landscape Consortium workers' discharge letters being withdrawn

Discharge letters issued by the Environmental Landscape Consortium are in the process of being withdrawn, the government announced late on Tuesday

Many local councils have contracts with the ELC to tend to their green infrastructure
Many local councils have contracts with the ELC to tend to their green infrastructure

Updated at 7:54am

Discharge letters which were issued to more than 100 workers at the Environmental Landscapes Consortium are being withdrawn, the government has said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Employees had received the letters earlier on in the day and were told that they would no longer be needed as of next year, citing that the consortium had failed to secure an extension of its private-public partnership with the government.  

Workers have been told that their last day of work would be 31 December. 

The employees had been informed that various attempts by the company to secure a renewal of the contract failed and had left them no choice but to issue  “collective redundancies” for all employees on its books.

In response, independent candidate Arnold Cassola, who published the letter sent to employees, described the lay-offs as a sad and terrible day for employees. “Unlike for those greedy people [whose greed] was given free rein these last years, for these employees and families, it is certainly not the best of times.”

However, the ministry said that it was committed to ensuring that work related to landscaping continued and also improved. It also wanted to make sure that the service was provided in a manner that was transparent, efficient and reflected good governance. 

The ministry confirmed that the process for the issue of a new call for tender had started and it was mindful of the recommendations that had been made in the report by the Auditor-General.

It also said that talks were in an advanced stage, “with the existing consortia to cover a transitory period so that if the contract was won by a new consortium, workers would be transferred to it.”

Subsequently, the discharge letters issued by ELC were being withdrawn.

The Environmental Landscapes Consortium (ELC) was chosen without any form of tendering procedure back in 2003 when it was entrusted with the maintenance of Malta’s public areas.

The ELC is chaired by Peter Calamatta, of Calamatta Landscapes, and includes the Polidano Group and Green Supplier.

In August the consortium informed 38 local councils that it did not intend renewing their landscaping contracts. The Environment Ministry reacted by announcing that it would be following recommendations made by the Auditor-General in 2007, and would be “issuing a public tender in the coming months”.

In its report, the NAO had conceded that the ELC was instrumental in bringing about positive change, but questions arose on how the original 2002 agreement – and the two subsequent contract extensions – were not awarded through competitive tendering.

According to the report the government could have pulled out of its public-private partnership with the ELC as a result of several contractual breaches, but a weak and understaffed monitoring unit resulted in “tacit consent”.

The PPP between the government and the consortium responsible from landscaping Malta’s roundabouts and public gardens has been in place since 2003, despite the negotiated contractual rates that the NAO described as “not favourable to government”.

The government’s expenditure since the initiation of this partnership in 2002 amounted to over €100 million.

A representative random sample comprising 76 out of a population of 1,682 landscaped sites across Malta and Gozo showed that 62 (82%) were well maintained. The main problems with the remaining sites related to littering and over-grown weeds. This audit also noticed that the quality related to the maintenance of landscaped sites improved considerably over the past two years.

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