Revealed: GWU cashing in from government human rights directorate

The General Workers Union (GWU) has continued to increase its cash intake from state coffers, with the Human Rights Directorate paying tens of thousands a year to operate from its offices in Marsa, a long battle to acquire the lease agreement through a Freedom of Information request revealed.

The directorate, part of the Justice Ministry, is situated in the A3 Towers opposite the Addolorata Cemetery. It is led by Michael Camilleri and Gaby Calleja, an LGBTQI rights activist.

The government entered into three separate lease agreements between 2017 and 2020 with Paola Estates Ltd, a fully-owned subsidiary of the GWU.

According to the lease agreements acquired by The Shift, following a legal battle through the FOI mechanism, the government leased the premises for some €60,000 a year.

Apart from open-plan offices, the government department also leased two interconnecting apartments on the 12th floor of the tower.

While the rent agreements – all entered into by direct order – have now been stretched over 10 years, through several extensions, until 2027, they specified that the property would only be used as offices.

However, in October last year, Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg inaugurated a new Gender Wellbeing Clinic operating from the same premises.

Asked for a copy of the agreement between the directorate and the health department and whether the directorate has acquired the necessary permit to use part of its offices as a health clinic, Michael Camilleri said there was no agreement in place.

“The use of part of our premises by the health department is on a gratis basis,” the directorate said. Still, the GWU is being paid by the directorate for the lease of this part of the premises.

GWU Secretary General Josef Bugeja signed the deal with the government.

Attempt to hide the lease agreements

The government, this time through Camilleri, spent months fighting The Shift over its request for a copy of the lease agreements.

Turning down The Shift’s requests, he wrongly claimed that the government department he heads could not divulge the contents of the lease agreements, citing “commercial sensitivity” and “confidentiality”.

At no time did he indicate that these lease agreements, paid by taxpayers, were with a GWU company and done through direct orders.

Following a call for an investigation, challenging the government’s resistance, The Shift was given access to the documents, with Information and Data Protection Commissioner Ian Deguara rubbishing the reasons given by Camilleri and the justice ministry to keep these agreements hidden.

The Commissioner found that the Human Rights Directorate did not observe the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and ordered it to provide the agreements.

GWU milking government coffers

The latest revelations on the GWU’s profiting from government coffers top millions Malta’s largest trade union has made from taxpayers since 2013.

In 2014, just a year after Labour’s return to power, part of the same A3 Towers building was leased by the GWU to Transport Malta for some €600,000 a year. This rental agreement is still ongoing.

Also, parts of the GWU’s HQ in Valletta, known as the Workers Memorial Building, have been leased out for years to ARMS Ltd – the government’s water and electricity billing company.

The latter deal breaches the conditions through which the same union acquired the premises from the government. But both the GWU and the government continue to look the other way.

The union, through a Foundation it controls, is also administering on behalf of the government the so-called Community Workers Scheme – supposedly aimed at giving training to the unemployed.

This scheme, from which the GWU makes ‘a cut’ on every jobless person joining, has been turned by the government into another jobs agency to keep official unemployment figures low and curry favour with voters who do not want to find productive employment.

The GWU hires the Hamrun premises from where it operates this scheme from its financial controller Robert Borg. The government forks out expenses according to the agreement it has with Jobsplus.

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3 months ago

GWU… What could possibly pretend to advocate an Union accepting the lowest minimum wages in Europe, regulations deyning the right of foreign workers to freely choose their employer? Its own earnings…

A good Governance requires a minimum of transparency and the extensive use of foundations is an evidence that Malta’s State is deliberately hiding its revenues and liabilities.

3 months ago

Oil and water.

3 months ago

Kif jista’ jkun jiġġieldu favur il-ħaddiem u kontra l-gvern tal-ġurnata jekk għandhom ħalqhom maż-żejża tal-Labour jerdgħu u jitħanżru huma wkoll!?!?!?

ISSA DAQSHEKK!! ISSA DAQSHEKK! <- eeee mela issa nafu għalfejn mhumiex jgħidulna Issa Daqshekk u joħonqu t-toroq tal-Belt bil-ħaddiema f’sitwazzjonijiet mhux gravi daqs l-inflazzjoni u l-pagi tal-lum!

Eeeee mela issa nafu għalfejn…

Roland Vella
Roland Vella
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark

Komplu hallsu l-mizata lil Union ja poplu gwejjed

3 months ago

gwu – taparsi tiggieled ghall-haddiem fil-waqt li tahleb lill-haddiem – ghodda f’idejn il-muvument KORROTT.

Francis Said
Francis Said
3 months ago

Is it legal for government to rent properties at extraordinary rates from a Union?
Is this not illegal for a government to finance a Union?
Moreover all this through a direct order, which should not be issued if over €10,000.
Back to the Mintoff regime when the GWU was part of government.
Continuity at it’s worst.

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