European Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor said the Commission disagreed with his interpretation and had no competence to interfere in the running of private companies.
The European Commission has refuted claims by Labour MEP Edward Scicluna that the government or the italian company that bought Malta Shipyards breached EU laws by not taking on board the workers that remained.
Replying to a parlaimentary question by Prof. Scicluna, in which he argued that the yard's remianing 59 workers had a right to be transferred onto the new company under EU laws, European Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor said the Commission disagreed with his interpretation and had no competence to interfere in the running of private companies.
He said nothing in the information provided by Prof. Scicluna indicated that the Maltese authorities had breached EU laws relating to the rights of employees during the transfer of companies.
The yard only employed 60 workers before it was sold, having shed nearly 1,000 employees in its 2003 restructuring to drop to 1,700, and downsizing again drastically last year through a ?58 million voluntary retirement scheme ahead of privatisation.
Fifty-nine of the remaining workers had asked to be transferred to the government company Industrial Projects and Services Ltd and the last remaining one opted for early retirement after Palumbo, the Italian company that took over, made it clear it would not automatically employ all the workers that were left on the yard's books before liquidation.
Originally, when the privitisation of Malta Shiyards was announced, the government had not immedietly adhered to the Commission's recommendation to liquidate the company before moving to privitisation as the enterprise still had hundreds of workers on its books. However, following a health uptake of the early retirement schemes, the government changed course and decided to wind up the company, avoiding forking out more millions of euros to cover the company's accumulated debt until it ceased operations. Prof. Scicluna argued that the workers that remained should have been transferred to the new company but Mr Andor said the Commission had no right or competence to intervene in decisions taken by private companies such as Palumbo.