Leading stakeholders and experts in Malta’s construction industry have responded with disgust and outrage after footage emerged showing an injured migrant construction worker seemingly left abandoned at the side of a road after suffering an injury on a site.
According to passer-by Caroline Galea, who stopped to help the man, he fell two stories on a building site while at work. His employer is then said to have driven him off the site – ostensibly to hospital, before dumping him on the side of a road.
Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, three leading stakeholders in the construction industry decried the alleged actions of the employer in the harshest possible terms.
Deborah Schembri – Malta Developer Association
According to Deborah Schembri, CEO of the Malta Developers’ Association (MDA), one would have to be “inhumane” to not condemn the event “without reservation.”
While stressing that the facts surrounding the incident have not yet been confirmed, Dr Schembri said that anyone found guilty of wrongdoing should pay the “full legal price,” and considering this, she urged the police to do their “utmost” to get to the bottom of the situation.
Asked how the MDA would respond if the contractor was found to be a member of the the organisation, Dr Schembri explained that the lobby group was not set up to deal with such instances.
“We’re not the police,” she said, adding that the register of contractors overseen by the MDA had come to an early demise due to widespread complaints about its set up.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA), she said, is now working on its own register.
Malta Chamber of Construction Management
On behalf of the newly launched Malta Chamber of Construction Management (MCCM), its President Jesmond Chetcuti said the organisation was “shocked and disgusted to say the least.”
He decried that in 2021, individuals can still be treated like this, and said the incident showed the need to ensure that contractors are regulated, and an increasingly strict licensing regime enters into force.
“There is no place for situations of this nature,” he added.
Asked for his insights on what laws and regulations seems to have been broken, he said that first and foremost, depending on current interpretations of the facts, it seems rules relating to employment/labour, and those to do with health and safety seem to have been breached.
Irrespective of the laws though, “it goes against the human nature, whereby we should be looking at supporting and assisting human beings whatever of their characteristics.”
From the perspective of the MCCM, Mr Chetcuti explains the organisation pushes its members to have health and safety training, to spot unsafe practices and request professional advice.
“Risk Assessments shouldn’t be a piece of paper to put in a folder just to tick a box, but must be read and reviewed properly, to make sure the mitigating measures are followed.”
“That is also why we are insisting that a site needs to be owned and managed by competent persons,” he added.
Providing his verdict on whether the incident showed the current self-regulation of contractors to not be working, Mr Chetcuti said the alleged incident is more to do with the irresponsibility of a contractor, rather than simply the self regulation not working.
“Out there, there are good contractors that follow the rules and know their responsibilities so it’s not fair to put everyone in the same basket.
“What’s for sure is that irresponsible contractors, if they can be called so, must be stopped from operating as they are not only a danger to society but also are giving a bad name to the industry,” he said.
Malta Chamber of Architects
Malta’s Chamber of Architects said the construction industry has “hit yet another low”, and that until contractors are required to possess a licence to operate, which would ensure operators provide lawful employment, “we will never make the quality leap we require”.
It added that it is aware discussions on draft regulations on the licensing of contractors are scheduled to resume shortly after having been on hold since May 2019.
The Chamber said it shall “be insisting that the new licensing regulations include provisions sanctioning or barring any contractors who were found to be responsible for serious injury of the loss of life of their workmen or neighbours through negligence prior to their coming into force”.
Malta Employers’ Association
The leading group representing employers in Malta, the Malta Employers Association (MEA) also condemned the move “without reservation.”
Such abusive actions, it said, are “unacceptable” in a civilised society. It also appealed on the police to conduct the necessary investigations to establish what happened and to bring anyone responsible to justice.
The Malta Chamber
The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry condemned the “vile lack of humanity shown” towards the construction worker, adding that the business-interest group “has always advocated fair and equal treatment of all workers, regardless of nationality across all sectors of the economy”.
It called on all relevant stakeholders and authorities to immediately carve out a strategy to tackle the issue in a holistic manner.
Robert Cutajar, Nationalist Party whip, environment spokesperson, and MP for the 12th district, which includes Mellieha, where the worker was found, warned that the incident should not be politicised.
“This is about life,” he said. “It is deeply worrying to see a human being treated like that, the facts being reported are accurate.”
He said that Malta’s once famous spirit of welcome and caring was being eroded, and called on his “countrymen” to embrace the value that previously characterised them.
“We don’t even allow stray animals to go hungry, and now this. As a human, as a Maltese, this is truly saddening. If the allegations are true, this is a black day,” he continued.
Mr Cutajar gave his thanks to those who stopped to give their assistance, and the various officials who helped out, saying: “The value of life is a cardinal point. We must always safeguard it.”
The office of Minister for the Environment, Climate Change & Planning Aaron Farrugia has been contacted for comment, however, at the point of publishing, a reply was not forthcoming.
Parliamentary Secretary for Construction Chris Agius responded to a comment request by saying:
“We outright condemn the irresponsible and cruel action which left an injured construction worker on the side of a road in Selmun.
“Such behaviour is unacceptable and stands in stark contrast to the Building & Construction Authority’s vision for the sector and the people involved in it, from contractors to workers.
“We are working on new regulations for the sector and once again stress the importance of regularising this sector further and fostering the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.”
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