The nurses’ union has objected to the presence of Nationalist candidate Gejtu Vella at meetings with the Health Department in his role as industrial relations consultant.

It warned it would walk out of meetings if Mr Vella was present and was even prepared to take industrial action if discussions had to be cancelled because of this.

Mr Vella, a former general secretary of the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin, has just been accepted as a PN candidate for the next election. He was recently engaged as an industrial relations consultant to Health Minister Joe Cassar, with an annual package of €22,000.

In an open letter to Dr Cassar, the president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses, Paul Pace said the MUMN could not understand how the ministry had decided to “waste” €22,000 from the health budget to engage a consultant when the money could have been used wisely for projects the ministry claimed it did not have the necessary funds to undertake.

Among these, the union mentioned wards at Mount Carmel Hospital it said were calling out for refurbishment.

Mr Pace said it was not a “capricious decision” by the MUMN but one that took into consideration Mr Vella’s “manoeuvres in attempting to weaken the MUMN by poaching our members to join his former union, the UĦM”.

The MUMN also accused Mr Vella of having “no morals in trade unionism”, arguing that the agreement he signed for the paramedics when he was still UĦM general secretary in 2007 was identical to the one the nurses’ union had negotiated through “long, painstaking meetings” with the Office of the Prime Minister.

Mr Pace added that Mr Vella also had a conflict of interest in his new role because he also offered consultancy services to the private sector.

He said the union was holding the minister “personally responsible and accountable” if the nurses/midwives sectoral agreement was copied and used by third parties.

When contacted, Mr Vella defended his position, saying he offered his services to earn a living. He said he was a “free agent” and was providing advisory services on a freelance basis.

“I respect their concerns but I do not agree with their assessment of my position as an adviser to the Health Ministry.

“I work freelance in the sector of industrial relations and am in the process of setting up my own consultancy firm – People at Work.

“I have been out of the union scene since October and I am using my vast experience to sustain my livelihood and that of my family,” he said.

Pierre Galea, 48, Xemxija

“It’s about time we hold an election. There is a lot of indecision in the country.”

Gejtu Vella Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

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