Some 300 Turkish construction workers have been deployed to Tigné in Sliema, signalling the start of a new wave of third-country nationals imported to work on massive construction jobs on the island. 

Following reports by The Sunday Times of Malta last week – that Ankara-based Taca Construction was conducting talks with the government on the possibility of fast-tracking some 2,500 Turkish builders to take over several construction jobs – the first few hundreds have arrived on the island. They immediately started working on the building of a massive building block to rise on the site formally occupied by the Fortina Hotel.

Hoarding around the massive construction site in Sliema, publicising the Turkish company, has been erected and containers, serving as offices for the contractors, were placed underneath the main road, on the foreshore next to the pool of a summer lido.

Sources said that the workers, flown directly from Istanbul, will be working around the clock on site, and are being paid the minimum wage of less than €800 a month.

“They will be staying here for years and may also be shifted to other projects which Taca will be building for Maltese developers,” the sources added.

The Times of Malta has not been able to confirm that the construction workers are residing in makeshift containers turned into mobile homes in an area next to Malta International Airport.

Questions sent to Taca Construction were not answered by the time of writing.

Apart from the Fortina Hotel project, which is already marred in controversy due to the lack of agreement with the Lands Authority on a tract of public land incorporated in the project, this newspaper is informed that Taca has already agreed to build the City Centre project in St George’s Bay on the site formerly occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies.

Maltese contractors can never compete with low wages. We have been outpriced

The Turkish company is offering rates which are much lower than current market prices, undercutting Maltese contractors tendering for such works.

“Although we are not yet equipped to build certain projects currently on the drawing board, such as high-rise buildings, Maltese contractors can never compete with low wages. We have been outpriced,” industry sources complained.

Apart from the City Centre project, the Seabank db Group was also keen to grant the building of a 500-bed extension of St Vincent de Paul residence to the Turkish firm despite competition from Maltese contractors.

Together with James Caterers, the Seabank db Group was awarded a controversial €274 million direct order by the government to provide meals at the elderly people’s residence and to manage the 500-bed extension it will be building for a 10-year period.

Meanwhile, despite that the building of the Fortina office block is already in full swing, no agreement has yet been reached with the Lands Authority on the use of public land included in the project.

According to public deeds signed years ago, the public land was sold to the Fortina developers on condition that it is only used for tourism purposes, mainly hotels.

However, despite that a change in use necessitates the approval of a new parliamentary resolution, the Planning Authority already gave the Fortina owners, controlled by the Zammit Tabona family, permission to build a massive office block for speculation.

Construction has now started but the Lands Authority is still negotiating with the Zammit Tabonas.

A few weeks ago, the Times of Malta revealed that Lands Authority CEO James Piscopo, was in business with members of the Zammit Tabona family in companies unrelated to the Fortina project.

Mr Piscopo, who did not tell the Lands Authority board about his conflict of interest before the revelations by this newspaper, said he was not involved in Fortina-related talks and had started the process of divesting himself from any private businesses.

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