FTS staff claim ‘discrimination, dictatorship’ at agency – minister fails to act

The Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools (FTS) is riddled with ongoing, rampant abuse including discrimination, dictatorial management, and blatant abuse, which has led to an exodus of experienced staff members, employees of the government’s school building agency have told The Shift.

Reaching out to The Shift News, a group of employees described the manner in which they are being discriminated against and abused by “a clan of political activists,” who have taken over the management of the agency in recent years.

Making it clear that they have decided to approach The Shift only as “a last resort”, after reports to Education Minister Clifton Grima and the General Workers Union remained unheeded, the employees, insisting on their anonymity for fear of retribution, described their work situation as “desperate and alarming”.

“Since Neville Young was appointed CEO, the working environment at the FTS has become toxic, with the majority of employees demoralized and disgusted with the dictatorial style of management,” one of the employees said.

“If an employee speaks up or voices an opinion which is somehow different from the management’s, he or she will immediately become the enemy and a target for intimidation. On the other hand, if you are part of the management’s ‘clan’, you are showered with benefits and promotions. The FTS has become a dictatorship and the situation is desperate,” another employee, who has worked at the FTS for years, claimed. 

Neville Young, a 45-year-old lawyer from a staunch Labour family, was made FTS CEO by former Education Minister Owen Bonnici in May 2020. A few years earlier, the same minister had tried to appoint Young’s sister, Ingrid Zammit Young, a magistrate, but was blocked by the Judicial Appointments Committee as her nomination was considered ineligible at the time.

Neville Young was put on the government payroll in 2013, soon after Labour was elected to power, with a top post at the Water Services Corporation.

While many experienced employees, including professional architects and engineers have left the FTS in recent years, the employees told The Shift that efforts to harass them are being made by the management on a daily basis, in order to force the m to resign, to be replaced by individuals closer to Young and his acolytes.

The employees pointed their fingers specifically at Jonathan Brimmer – the former spokesperson of Minister Helena Dalli and a member of the Labour Party executive – who given a management post at the FTS and later a promotion, and Maria Cutajar – a former GWU shop steward – also promoted to management by Young.

“Incidentally, Brimmer, who is the HR manager without any sort of qualification in the subject, was given another promotion during the same year that the FTS was found guilty of the unfair dismissal of one of the employees”.

The Shift verified this information. In its decision in 2021, the Industrial Tribunal pointed its fingers at the unprofessional conduct of Brimmer in sacking a sick employee and condemned the FTS to pay 22,000 in compensation. Taxpayers funded the compensation.

 

In 2021 the Tribunal fined FTS 22,000 for unfair dismissal due to lack of professionality by Brimmer’s Human Reseources Office

Questions sent to Neville Young about the serious claims made by several employees were not replied to.

The FTS has been mired in controversy over the past few years.

Under the guidance of former Minister Evarist Bartolo, the agency was stuffed with political appointees, with one of the minister’s canvassers, Edward Caruana, arraigned in court for alleged bribes and corruption related to school projects. It emerged that the minister was made aware of many abuses, but according to then CEO Philip Rizzo, he looked the other way.

Mismanagement at the FTS has also led to fewer schools being constructed than before, and even those that were built, were completed several years behind schedule.

New schools in Marsacala and Qawra, opened their doors to students many years after their original date of completion, with the latter still without a valid planning permit.

A few days ago, The Shift reported how a new primary school in Msida, which should have been completed three years ago, is still in construction stage, with works halted after some of the new structures have already shown signs of bad workmanship and deterioration.

In the meantime, due to the exodus of employees, the FTS has started commissioning private firms to do the previously ‘inhouse’ jobs, with costs of schools spiralling significantly over budget.

 

                           
                               
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Francis Said
Francis Said
30 minutes ago

Dictatorship in the making. It is time to wake up and resist this erosion of our democracy and meritocracy.
The who you know not what you know syndrome.

viv
viv
1 minute ago

A Malta-wide plague, imposed by a party ironically called ‘labour’.

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