Saturday, 30 June 2007

The Capitalist System Strikes Again!

Unfortunately, the capitalist system has reared its ugly head once again...over 500 employees working at a factory in Malta had to face the bitter reality that job security is not guaranteed in a capitalist society. I had once read somewhere that in such a society, the right to work has been replaced by the right to seek work!

The following article was written by Ms Ariadne Massa and published in The Times of Malta on the 26/06/2007:

Jobless status hits home for VF workers

Getting married over the weekend was a bitter-sweet affair for a machine operator who has been with VF Malta for 13 years, as she knew her honeymoon would be spent job hunting. The 29-year-old's marital bliss has been overshadowed by the fact that her husband, a foreigner, cannot work for now and she has to pay Lm70 a month on her car loan and another Lm170 on rent."It hasn't been much of a honeymoon. I spent the past few days knocking on doors, but everybody has a waiting list. What am I expected to do, go to Gzira?" the woman, who did not wish to be named, said laughing in hysterics.She was referring to that part of Gzira which is a haven for prostitutes.She was prepared to work as a waitress and cleaner, she said, but many were looking for people to work night shifts, which she felt did not bode well for a newly married woman."Whatever is left of my salary every month I spend on food. What's going to happen now? How will I cope? The situation is frightening," she told The Times yesterday soon after finishing her shift at 2 p.m.

She is just one of the 570 casualties of VF, the last remaining denim manufacturing company on the island, which has announced it will be relocating to Asia where labour is much cheaper.The workers, who had been forced to take a few days off to avoid disruption, returned to work yesterday to face the situation.Roberto Cristiano, General Workers' Union section secretary, together with the company's management, went round every department explaining the process and the termination package.Overall, the people who spoke to this newspaper were happy with the package, which includes two-and-a-half weeks' pay for every year of service and payment for the notification period."People are obviously down because they lost their job, but at least the package has helped soften the blow and they were satisfied with what was negotiated," Mr Cristiano claimed.

The union has scheduled a meeting with the two main banks to discuss how to ease the burden on those who had loan repayments to make.The Employment and Training Corporation will be visiting the company today to discuss the options of retraining and job opportunities.Rachella Schembri, 27, who has been working in the sewing room for 10 years, is happy with the package negotiated, though she has no idea where to start looking for a job."I'll miss my friends more than the actual job... I mean you can always find a machine elsewhere. I don't think we have realised what hit us yet," she said, smiling shyly.

The decision by VF Corporation to close its plant was an unexpected blow to everyone, and though a few realised there was a lack of overtime and work was slowing down, they never suspected such a drastic measure. Jeffrey Grech, 23, a sorter with the company for five years, is hoping to move out of the textile industry completely because he realises that factories in the Western world are seeking cheaper labour in less developed countries."This is not a matter of politics. We simply cannot compete with these countries," he said. Asked if he felt confident of finding alternative employment soon, he shrugged his shoulders: "Many ask you for experience, but then they're not ready to provide you with the training to learn". Clinton Azzopardi, 24, has been scraping jeans for six years and though he was happy, he wishes to leave the textile sector for the same reasons as Mr Grech.Waiting under the shade of a tree to start his shift, Mr Azzopardi said he had been leafing through the newspapers in the hope of finding a job, but has had no luck so far.It's a similar story with Oliver Brincat, 31, who joined the company eight months ago. Having left his carpentry job, when he realised that work was dwindling following EU membership, he was settling down at VF."Luckily I have no loan, but everybody has a certain quality of life they wish to maintain. I have been knocking on factory doors, but it's not easy," he said.

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