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Wasteserv CEO points to increased demand when facing PAC over employment drive during election

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Wasteserv CEO Tonio Montebello has insisted that the increase in staff during the election campaign in May 2017 was due to the increase in demands the company faced.

When faced by questions from MPs in the Public Accounts Committee, he highlighted the introduction of new plants in the North, Gozo, and the Autoclave in 2015 and 2016; along with the growing waste management needs of the population.   

He said that the growing waste management needs of the population meant that extra shifts had to be added to keep up with the demand.

“I even feel that we’re short on staff at the moment, I would need roughly 75 more staff,” he explained.

The Nationalist Party requested the PAC to investigate after they raised concerns over the recruitment of employees with Wasteserv in July, particularly during the election campaign.

Montebello initially told the PAC that he was not aware of the number of individuals employed in this period, before MP Karol Aquilina pointed out that a parliamentary question revealed that 112 individuals had been employed.

He would later say that all employment is done through requests he makes towards the board of directors, but could not remember the particular request during election time.

“I need staff when I need staff, regardless of what is going on,” he said.

MP Claudio Grech would ask for a copy of the minutes and documentation regarding the request made to the board.

Providing figures from 2010 to 2017, Montebello revealed the amount individuals Wasteserv employed and terminated for the years 2010 (148 in, 42 out),  2011 ( 86 in, 69 out), 2012 (121 in, 66 out), 2013 (4 in ,25 out), 2014 (94 in , 54 out), 2015 (135 in ,44 out), 2016 (79 in ,38 out), 2017 (162 in, 22 out).

As PS Julia Farrugia pointed out, this meant that over the seven years roughly 829 persons were employed while 359 were terminated, implying that recruitment drives were the common industry practice.

He explained that the “volatile industry” typically experiences a high turnover in staff due to the difficult and laborious conditions of the workforce.

Asked specifically about the increase during the election campaign period, Montebello insisted that it was due to the increased workload of the previous years and said that “everything takes its time.”

He also spoke of the increased demands brought about by the closure of a private company that handled waste management, resulting in an increase in employment.

“At Sant Antnin’ we already had to deal with 250 tonnes of waste per week, the closure of the company added a further 100 tonnes,” he explained.

Montebello was then quizzed by PN MP Karol Aquilina regarding Wasteserv employees stationed in separate entities, such as the valley management unit. Montebello first said that a bulk of these employees were placed there after the fire that occurred at Sant Antnin Plant on 22 May 2017, leaving 180 employees who needed to be redeployed to other departments within the company.

Aquilina then told Montebello that 16 people were employed within the valley management unit prior to the fire, and when pressed for answers he said that he “did not remember” and needed to check the figures, despite being told it was provided by the minister in a parliamentary question.

This was met with stinging criticism from MP Robert Abela, who said that the opposition was attacking hard working individuals trying to earn money for their families.

Montebello said that the majority of staff that are employed earn between €900 and €1000 a month, and came from difficult backgrounds.

Original article found on The Malta Independent

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