UHM Voice of the Workers condemns the manner in which it has been ousted from the country’s highest democratic institution, the House of Representatives, after having successfully led negotiations on a new collective agreement.

It transpires that after months of prolonged negotiations during which the GWU had taken the backseat and piggybacked on the UHM’s work, the GWU for some reason and with no prior advice sought to get sole recognition just when the agreement was due to be approved.

The move which took everybody by surprise and raised eyebrows, was made just when the Opposition was piling pressure for the resignation of the Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia who is also the head of the parliamentary staff. UHM Voice of the Workers had nothing to do with this political dispute.

UHM CEO Josef Vella said such circumstances rendered the verification process triggered by GWU’s request as “vitiated” and consequently did not take part. This sentiment was communicated in an email sent to the Principal Permanent Secretary, the Speaker and the Director of Industrial Relations and Employment.

Vella said the move was only intended to eliminate UHM from being a signatory in an agreement which should have been concluded already. 

“The union contributed immensely to the process of the collective bargaining, which process was halted unnecessarily pending the final approval.  I always understood that considering the aura of the parliament as a place of work, such union partisan bickering must be avoided as should be avoided membership and staff poaching. The respect shown by this union both to parliament as an institution and a place of work is not being requited,” Vella said.

“In the light of the above it is amply clear that the process to verify which union should be granted sole recognition is vitiated with the sole purpose of such action being defiance which I hope is not a retributive act on third party’s actions. No one should resort to such tactics of eliminating one of the two unions in a joint negotiation process on the eve of signing an agreement where my union’s contribution was imperative,” the UHM CEO added.

 Consequently, UHM did not take part in the verification exercise.

“UHM cannot participate in such a process when in actual fact we should be sending a calendar invite for a signing ceremony. Getting entangled in such a process is only intentioned at procrastinating a much awaited outcome by the staff of Parliament. I am disappointed that another negative narrative of social dialogue this time is being attributed to one of the highest authorities of our country,” he remarked.

By the time of writing there was no reaction whatsoever from the Principal Permanent Secretary, the Speaker and the Director for Employment and Industrial Relations.

Under the agreement negotiated by UHM, employees at the House of Representatives will benefit from a 12% pay rise. Moreover, UHM had single-handedly worked on the working hours and overtime clause, the grade structure and the salary workings.

Throughout the process, the GWU never reached out to UHM to present its own proposals to the point that the ones submitted by UHM were those adopted for the negotiations during which the GWU backed the UHM’s proposals.

Despite the UHM’s complaints that the verification process was “vitiated” it went ahead, with the GWU obtaining the support of 57%.

In view of this, UHM has been forced to take a tougher stance. From now onwards it will only take part in joint negotiations as long as the other unions agree not to seek recognition while the talks are still open.