During the election run-up, over 200 people were enrolled into a ‘jobless scheme’ run by the GWU for a huge profit at taxpayers’ expense. Over 1,200 people form part of the scheme. Almost half are Gozo residents. If Gozo is doing so well, why does it have all these unemployed?

How come Robert Abela brags about Malta’s record low unemployment rate yet hundreds keep being added onto the jobless scheme? When the scheme was launched in 2015, there were only 600 on its books. Now there are more than double.

The scheme was meant to help the unemployed find employment. But the scheme provided no training to improve recruits’ prospects of employment. By 2019, four years after the scheme launched, only 42 individuals out of 839 had secured alternative employment. That’s just five per cent. Any scheme with such a dismal failure rate would have long been scrapped, especially one costing taxpayers millions.

The scheme was never intended to improve employment prospects. The National Audit Office lambasted the Community Workers Scheme, as the jobless scheme was euphemistically called, in its 2019 report. “The scheme’s main purpose would be merely the absorption of participants and to strike them off the unemployment register,” the NAO commented.

No doubt, the NAO was right. The Community Workers Scheme was just a cynical ploy to artificially reduce the official unemployment rate. Registered unemployed people were simply paid a salary for doing little to nothing.

The Labour government didn’t pay them directly. Instead it paid the GWU a sum of money for each recruit. The GWU paid the recruits a minimum pay and kept the rest for itself. In return, Labour could boast that those unemployed recruits, paid from our taxes, had been employed in the private sector. And Abela could brag that Malta had the lowest unemployment ever. In fact, Labour used our money to fiddle the figures and deceive.

But the scheme was far more sinister.

The real aim was for Labour politicians to be able to hand out jobs to constituents. Kenneth Cutajar, CEO of District Operations Ltd, the for-profit company set up to siphon taxpayers’ money from the scheme, testified that many were recruited simply on the direct recommendation of the Minister for Gozo.

It should have been Jobsplus that decided who was recruited. Instead, the minister simply named the individuals he wanted enrolled in the scheme. These workers were paid like the rest  but the Gozo Ministry actually funded their salary. The ministry paid Jobs­plus that then paid the GWU, which then paid its own company District

Operations Ltd for the privilege.

Nobody knows what work, if any, those recommended by the minister did. No work logs were kept, according to the NAO.

The ‘job’ the minister secured for those individuals was like manna from heaven. They received a salary for doing little to nothing, leaving ample time for their undeclared ‘part-time’ jobs. In addition, they also received a €450 performance bonus for being on the jobless scheme. Those recruits were deeply indebted to the minister.

That was the real purpose of the scheme – buying eternal gratitude cashed into votes on election day. That explains why the numbers of people in that scheme swelled to record figures in the months before the general election. That is why 44 per cent of those in the scheme come from one district – Gozo – which makes up only six per cent of the population.

The Community Workers Scheme was never intended to improve employment prospects- Kevin Cassar

In the process, the scheme wreaked havoc on the private sector, which was depleted of its workforce. Who would want to work for a private company that expected some work for the money it paid when you could simply receive a cheque for idleness? Instead of improving employment prospects for Gozitans, the GWU jobless scheme undermined Gozo’s private industry, wrecked the island’s economy and destroyed all hope for the future.

The scheme served other purposes. On January 4, 2016, the GWU signed an agreement with the government to run the Community Workers Scheme. It was nominally a non-profit GWU company, the CWSE Foundation, that was meant to run the scheme.

Instead, GWU cynically subcontracted to a for-profit company called District Operations Ltd that it set up and whose shareholders included GWU president Victor Carachi, GWU general secretary Josef Bugeja, GWU deputy general secretary Kevin Camilleri, GWU financial controller Robert Borg and Konrad Mizzi’s private lawyer, Aaron Mifsud Bonnici.

In 2018 alone, they ‘spent’ €1.2 million on administration expenses. Their directors’ fees trebled to €46,600 while other board members received €32,400. Over five years, the GWU made €8.5 million from the scheme. When the first contract expired, it won a new seven-year contract worth €109 million, despite a vastly cheaper competing bid. Those schemes silenced the GWU, no doubt, adversely affecting workers’ rights,  and toeing the party line. It was a reward for working so hard for Labour.

But it wasn’t all bad. There was one outstanding success story out of that nefarious scheme. According to John Borg, permanent secretary at the Gozo Ministry, in 2017, one well-known Gozo resident joined a scheme for the unemployed jointly set up by the ETC and the Gozo Ministry. On January 2, 2018, that famous resident was recruited into the GWU Community Workers Scheme. For three years, he was assigned with the Gozo Ministry. But, in December 2020, he was transferred to the Education Minis­try, just days after Justyne Caruana became minister.

After almost four years in the unemployed scheme, Danjel Bogdanovic was offered a contract to coordinate works at government schools. On February 26, 2021, he was given a lucrative contract to conduct a study on the National School of Sport worth €5,000 monthly.

On March 8, 2021, a contract was drawn up for Bogdanovic to be employed as a person of trust in Caruana’s private secretariat.

So, whoever claims that nobody in the GWU scheme finds employment is a liar and a traitor.

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