Friday, February 18, 2005

Strikers accept Government mediation

AquaGib employees at a meeting at Transport House yesterday morning agreed to suspend their industrial action and enter into a 30 day mediation period in which the Chief Minister and Government will seek an agreement between employees and the company.

A condition for intervention was the suspension of all industrial action, No 6 confirmed.

The workers are back today having met with Peter Caruana on Wednesday although there were indications that some sectors may impose a work to rule. On going to press the AquaGib management said that they had not been approached on the developments.

The meeting had taken place at the request of several of the workers. No 6 said that at the meeting the Chief Minister/GoG was asked to mediate and bring the parties together to find a solution to the impasse. He agreed to do so on condition that staff stopped disruptive industrial action during any period of mediation by the Government.

The union said that Government will bring the union and management together to find a settlement for the conflict having agreed that mediation is the best way forward.
Charles Sisarello and the shop stewards will lead on the negotiations for the staff side. The union apologised for the disruption action has caused but said its members were pursuing their legitimate rights as working people. They called on management “not to intimidate or threaten those who have participated in the strike” and said they looked forward to the future and improved industrial relations.

Alameda Tenants

Meanwhile the Alameda Estate Tenants Associations said it was glad the 350 homes had their supplies back and they thanked those in the company who took the bold initiative. But they also recorded great dissatisfaction at the manner in which they had had to suffer the consequences of a dispute that had nothing to do with them.
They reminded all parties involved that the company exists to supply water to the public and that the Government has an obligation under the Constitution to ensure the maintenance of a water supply. All parties, says the Association, have failed to perform their obligations.

“The manner in which the whole affair has been conducted displays a degree of lack of duty of care, regard and sensitivity towards the consumer generally and our members in particular which represents a disgrace to our city and to our pretensions of living in a modern, civilised society,” said the Association. They also thanked residents for showing restraint and AquaGib for supplying bottled water and delivering this to the elderly and physically incapacitated.

AquaGib management were yesterday still reeling from the massive personal effort they had to put in to ensuring that supplies generally continued during the dispute and in dealing with the consequences of the action.

“We were working flat out but people only tend to see the problems rather than the effort involved in keeping services running smoothly.”

Labour

Meanwhile, the local Labour Party said it was extremely concerned by the escalation of the dispute to a point, where citizens, some extremely vulnerable, were deprived of a basic necessity such as water.

“We defend the right of the Unions to take industrial action, but when such action involves depriving the community of essential services, both Management and Unions have a duty to avert it by all means possible.”

“Government has an inescapable responsibility to act in this dispute, not only because it is involved as Government in the management of this Company, but also because Government has a responsibility to ensure that essential services are supplied to all in our community,” they said welcoming the Government’s albeit “late” intervention.

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