Updated 3.30pm

Tributes have poured in for Gaetano Tanti, a former president of the UĦM Voice of the Workers, who died on Thursday, aged 66.

Colleagues from the trade union sector hailed Tanti as a “gentle giant” who was there in the most important years of trade unionism in Malta.

“He was like our second father,” UĦM CEO Josef Vella told Times of Malta. “We lost a father in trade unionism. Whatever we’ve learnt, we owe it to him.”

“He was very disciplined. He had a to-do list in the morning and spent the day crossing things out. We were very lucky to have had him as our teacher in trade unionism. I’ve known him since the 1990s when I was still shop steward at my workplace, then working closer to him since 2006 when I took on the full-time job at the union,” Vella said.

General Workers’ Union general secretary Josef Bugeja described Tanti as his “idol” in the trade union field.

“He was such a gentleman, approachable and a good listener. He was a giant in trade unionism and I only have words of praise for him,” Bugeja said when contacted.

“He was a problem solver and came to the table with solutions rather than problems. He was the one to propose a compromise because it came natural to him,” he added.

Bugeja said he worked closely with Tanti and that the rivalry between UĦM and GWU was “only perception” as both unions work closely together because they are both on the same side – of the workers.

The long-serving trade unionist had been in hospital for a month.

Born in Ħamrun, Tanti joined the public service in 1976 and was seconded to the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin in 1991.

He was appointed secretary of the General Service Section in 1987 and was subsequently appointed assistant secretary general in 1991 and president of the union in 1998.

He held this position for 13 years until 2011 when he returned to the public service.

Tanti was a member of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development, the Employment Relations Board, the Retail Price Index Advisory Committee, the National Information Society Advisory Council, the Panel of Assessors (Social Security Act) representing employees, the Worker of the Year Award and Council Member of the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions.

He was appointed director of the Employment and Training Corporation in July 2011 and remained on the JobsPlus board.

The jobs agency also paid tribute to its board member, thanking him for his service and contribution over the years.

His closest collaborator in trade unionism was Gejtu Vella, who served alongside Tanti in the UĦM as general secretary.

He said that he and Tanti worked together for some 25 years and were friends. He offered his condolences to his family, including his wife, Rose and his three children and their families at this difficult time.

“I am convinced that Saint Gaetano [the patron saint of Ħamrun] will be waiting for Gaetano at the door of Eternal life,” he wrote on Facebook.

Tanti contributed to various journals and newspapers and participated in various conferences both locally and abroad.

He represented the UĦM and the CMTU in various conferences organised by the International Labour Organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation, the European Trade Union Confederation, and the European Federation of Public Service Employees, among others.

A 'wonderful person'

Joe Farrugia, the director general of the Malta Employers Association remembered Tanti as a “wonderful person”.

“He could be forceful in his arguments, but always came across as fair and objective, gaining the respect of all social partners at the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development and the Employment Relations Board. His passing is a tremendous loss to our society.”

William Portelli, president of the Confederation of Maltese Trade Unions said Tanti “was always loyal to the cause”, using his calm, calculated and cautious nature to achieve results. “Even when issues were sensitive, he was always sensible in his approach. His void will be missed,” he said.

“I recall working closely in the civil service collective agreement discussions. He was a very technical person, and kept his composure during negotiations. He was not militant and always sought compromise,” said Paul Pace, president of Forum, a confederation of 14 trade unions.

PN leader Bernard Grech was among politicians to pay tribute to Tanti, describing him as "the definition of a trade unionist who embraced the Maltese worker and worked with a European vision".

Tanti's funeral will be held on Saturday at 1.30pm at Santa Venera parish church.

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