Labour in labour

Re-inventing the Malta Labour Party (and Maltese politics): an unauthorised tazebao.

The public transport strike: konsenturi.

Posted by fcb on July 16, 2008


The public transport strike has shaken the country. The Malta Transport Federation shows no signs of softening. An “and-everybody-lived-happily-ever-after” end is not in sight. True, the economic impact has not (so far) been catastrophic. The political and social impact, however, has been more powerful and more serious than meets the eye.

The political impact on the ruling Nationalist Party has been tremendous. The rank and file of the Party is shocked at the intensity of the strikers’ anger. The ordinary Nationalist supporter is genuinely surprised. We spoke to several and most reacted in the same way. They ask: “What did we do to them? Many, perhaps most, of them are Nationalists like us. Couldn’t we have solved this amicably, as we always do?”

Although Minister Austin Gatt puts up a facade of cool uncompromising toughness, not all is well within the Government and within the Party in government. There are clear signs of fatigue and cracks – konsenturi – are beginning to appear. We are not surprised. The stress is tremendous. The attempt to reassure the rank and file of the Nationalist Party and the ordinary Nationalist supporter that all is under control is beginning to fail.

Many of them are beginning to wonder who is responsible for a situation that could have been prevented. Many are beginning to point fingers and to speak of serious political mismanagement. Many are expecting Lawrence Gonzi to relieve Austin Gatt of a job that is evidently above and beyond his political competence and ability. Gatt, many – including a number of his own colleagues – have concluded, is unable to solve a problem that should not have been a problem in the first place.

The social impact, too, has been considerable. It has been a long time since we witnessed words and actions as harsh as some of those we heard and saw in the last three days. The effect will not rub off easily. The harshness we witnessed is a clear sign that beneath the surface not all is well in this society. Pressures from conflicts and resentment are building up to a level that is fast approaching the danger mark.

The political responsibility for the build-up of these pressures goes beyond the responsibility for the situation we are living through now. The public transport strike is only one episode, one of a number of other potential eruptions. The roots of this turmoil is to be found in the irresponsible manner with which Nationalist governments have, over the years, failed to tackle important issues decisively and definitively.


8 Responses to “The public transport strike: konsenturi.”

  1. Maria Vella said

    All this national fuss and Government is still in the initial stages of major reform dealing with a very small sector forming part of the Transport myriad. Talk about Government fatigue. The only thing Government can come up with is paying its way out of the mess. How typical. What will Gonzi do when he will have to deal with the harder bit? Will he or his blunderbus Gatt pay off the taxipeople, the minivanpeople, the buspeople, the pharmacies, the petrol stations etc etc.? Add to this high fuel cost, costlier food.

    At the root of all problems is the Nationalist party culture to be all things to all before the elections. They never tried to explain the implications of EU to their own who may believe that they can sort anything out with a friendly chat with the minister. All the actual and implicit promises are now coming to haunt them. Only Dalli stands gallarija shocked that our multi million hospital is a part time thing.

    Now the Nationalist Party has drastically upset their own people. Betrayal is something never forgotten, especially when the betrayer is one of your own. Ask the Greek Orthodox who never forgave the Catholics for the betrayal that was the 4th Crusade. How pathetic seeing the chattering class come out in support of a blundering Gatt. It only shows their irreconcilable frustrations at a Government stranded well past its point of no return.

    This contrasted so sharply with Joseph’s clear stance : The interest of the consumer is the guiding light.

    Maria Vella

  2. Joe Grima said

    This strike and the way it has been handled provides clear indications of what we are to expect when the next protest erupts from somewhere else. Tempers, allegedly over rising costs, have brought this service sector into the streets. This sector has shown that it could not care two bent dummies for the damage caused to such a vital industry for Malta as the tourism industry, let alone to any other or to Malta’s image abroad. Allegedly it is their livelihood that’s at stake. I haven’t seen the full costings of what the buses are earning by way of fares and subsidies and what they are spending in costs to maintain the service so I am unable to judge the veracity of their complaint. However, in life, when all is lost and one’s back is against the wall with nowhere else to go, caution will go the way of the wind and a nation can only expect the worst.

    What we are experiencing now could easily have happened in a much more frightening manner when the latest surcharges were annouced. The excuses that surrounded the surcharges were far from convincing and yet many Maltese families just took the blow and simply worried themselves sick as to where they will be able to get the money to finance the heavy increases in electricity and water.

    Passing the buck of increased costs to the consumer without the slightest effort to seek alternatives, without a modicum of innovation, without thinking outside the traditional box by our administrators is not likely to be tolerated forever and tempers that are already frayed are only likely to overheat. That heat can fire the common man in the street with a family he cannot fully support because he can no longer afford to. The rest is too frightening to imagine.

    That, in my view, is precisely where this country is heading, now in the proven knowledge that Goverment’s way of handling a crisis is to wait it out hoping to wear out the protestors as Austin Gatt successfully did on this occasion. We now also know that the Police manner of protecting citizens from arrogance and violence is to argue with protestors until one shouts the other down and that protest in the streets may also include repeatedly breaking the law with impunity, disrupting the daily lives of innocent citizens, making honest businesses close down and sending workers on forced leave because there are no customers to serve, bullying and even ganging up on and beating up innocent people.

    God forbid such a protest had brought a thousand people on our streets with these same attitudes , all convinced that they have nothing to lose but their chains.

    Joe Grima

  3. Andrew Sciberras said

    It was revealed to me, today, that the Malta Hearses Association (MHA) was bought off for €230,000 by the Government. From the tax payer’s pocket of course. Source:

    Il-Ministeru jobbliga ruhu li, kif ghamel f-kul kaz ta’ setturi ekonomici li affrontaw
    liberalizzazzloni, ristrutturar jew processi ohra, jhallas is-somma ta’ €230,000 lill-
    Assocjazzjoni sabiex din tkun tista thejji ruhha biex taffronta l-liberalizzazzjoni tas-suq
    tas-servizzi tal- ” Hearses”;

    The date on this press release is 16th July 2008. Yet it was not reported in the media. On the contrary, one paper reported that the MHA pulled out of the strike “unexpectedly”.

    Moreover, the same agreement lists another troublesome obligation:

    L-Awtorita tintrabat li ghal perjodu ta’ ghaxar (10) snin ma tippermettix ir-registrazzjoni
    f’ Malta ta’ “Hearses” li jkunu “second Hand”;

    This means that the current Hearse operators may sell off some of their vehicles for profit and still enjoy the market for themselves. Hardly liberalization isn’t it?

    Yet I expect government rhetoric to be something like: “We had to pay them off in the national interest”. And the Honourable Minister Austin Gatt walks away with the macho “he has guts” ticket. Do not get carried away by my words here. I congratulate the latter for his determination; for being the only Minister ready to tackle the issue head on – as should have been done years ago. Yet, I think he has a lot, and I mean a lot, to answer for regarding the manner he tackled it.

    Another daunting question is: now what happens with the bus, taxi and mini-van drivers? I suppose they will be wanting the same treatment. Therefore if there are around 11 Hearse operators, they must have received approximately €20,000 each. There are over a thousand bus, taxi and mini-van drivers. That amounts to €20,000,000 from our pockets.

    Andrew Sciberras

  4. Joe X.riha said

    Please don’t blame the Transport people, they did not know the real implications of the EU membership. I knew the implications and I’ voted EU because of these implications. I think that the transport workers and owners have no one to blame except Alfred Sant; he was the one who did not explain to these imbeciles that EU membership includes warts as well as cherries. Some people will eat the cherries, some will have to contend with the warts. I am determined to eat the cherries and sell medicine to treat warts!

    Joe X’riha

  5. carmen caruana said

    Maybe the Maltese people will not be passive anymore after this bad joke…..
    Maybe people before the election said that they were afraid to vote for Sant but now they are subjected to a bad administration wanted by themselves. I hope all of those that voted pn will think twice iat the next election, an election that I hope it will take place earlier than 5 years.

    Carmen Caruana

  6. Nina Camilleri said

    Hi you guys!

    Fabrizio’s post made me wet myself, no, not with excitement (in fact the subject matter is a pleasure killer) but with laughter. Read it!

    Proset Fab,

    Nina Camilleri

  7. Abraham Agius said

    Dear all,

    This whole issue was a mistake from the beginning. The fact that the minister accepted the hearses’ strike and that of the federation was already a grave mistake for all the discomfort that it was to create.

    Then it was the Transport Federation mistake to allow some hot head guys to make all the infamous things they have done. They did not realize what the Maltese Independent (sic) media can do. They have shown all and sundry what the drivers were doing….but did not say anything on how the government should have handled the situation. The emergency transport offered by the government was a farce in its own right as it was only made of a couple of vehicles of the army or else a black taxi, which I am sure can never cater for all the needs of the public. Then on the second day the emergency service was not offered at all and instead and again the Maltese Independent (sic) media focused her criticism of the disruptions and protests of the drivers. And this continued on and on.

    And then finally an agreement was reached with the hearses. And again the Maltese Independent (sic) media made of this news the most important as if the amount of EUR230000 paid to the hearses from the exchequer was nothing when it should have the news of the day. Nowadays it seems that the trend put forward by the Gonzi government is to buy anything you want. With the people’s taxes the government has bought the silence of the hearses and has subsided their new vehicles with around EUR21000 each of the 11 of them. Now they will be doing the same with the purchaser of the Malta Drydocks (MDD). As an excuse Gonzi will be paying all the outstanding loans and bank facilities from the people’s taxes to get rid of the responsibility of the MDD workers. It seems that the ‘Money No Problem’ policy is still in force for this government despite all the effects there may be.

    One may ask where all this money is coming from. Well it will be interesting to know what was the increase collected in VAT on fuel. Let’s keep in mind that the fuel price has doubled if not trebled and hence the income from such VAT has also increased. Furthermore the number of cars on the road have also increased and hence an increase in consumption should have been registered and hence an increase in income of tax. So the increase in government income and hence an increase in expenses is allowed and the government is giving an open cheque to Dr. Gatt to get rid of whatever he may sell or privatise. God knows what will be next, but I am sure the government will end up forking out more money to sell something that may be re-structured to become more efficient and give some return to the countries coffers.


  8. fabrizioellul said

    @ Nina

    cheers 🙂

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