Malta’s fuel stations could go on strike as early as Monday after talks between the stations’ union and the Energy Ministry have broken down.
“We weren’t able to arrive at an agreement during the last meeting held with the Government,” Abigail Mamo, CEO of the GRTU, told Lovin Malta. “We’ve set a deadline for a solution to be found by the end of this week, and on Monday we will have a meeting to see how to proceed.”
She noted how fuel station owners’ were ready to take action following the meeting. When asked if this meant Malta could experience a national fuel strike, she said that all options are on the table.
“In reality, nothing is excluded. What we know for sure is that members are not in a good situation because they are under a lot of pressure to carry out the investment required by law – they are receiving a lot of letters – and yet there is no financing to carry out the work. So they are ready to take action,” she said.
The strike comes as the Government pushes for the refitting of up to 90% of petrol stations around the Maltese islands, stations that are not fulfilling the requirements of an EU directive. The GRTU had wanted to discuss the Government funding up to €21 million to subsidise the re-fittings, but the talks have yet to bear fruit.
“The issue is about the increase in the margin of profitability that the fuel station owners have – that is what we are talking about. And this is something that affects all fuel stations in Malta and Gozo – and, in reality, it is up to fuel station owners whether to take action, and what action to take,” she said.
Pictured above: GRTU CEO Abigail Mamo
Mamo said the GRTU would prefer if talks could come to a decisive result so a strike or similar actions are avoided
“Ideally, action is avoided,” she said, “and if action is taken, it will be the least possible action we can take. At the end of the day, the members have their own clients and don’t want to cause inconvenience to their consumers.”
However, after waiting “for four years for something to materialise”, Mamo said they have “reached a point of no return”
“We have suggested a number of solutions to the Government, solutions that would not put pressure on the consumer, and hopefully we will find a solution soon enough,” she said.
However, she pointed out what she saw as a flaw in the Government’s reasoning in pushing for the re-fittings.
“The required refurbishments are needed for environmental and health and safety reasons, and we aren’t against that,” she said. “Yet in 2014, the Government that said that Malta will eventually be running cars without the need for fuel. As things stand, with the level of investment needed, members will need 50 to 60 years before they make back the investment they put in.”
“If we are soon going to do away with fuel stations,” she asked, “how are they going to to recoup the investment?”
The Government said it is still open to discussion
In a statement, the Government said that back in 2011, the Malta Resources Authority had allowed fuel station owners to set higher profit margins with the condition that the owners would then pay for the investment, which is required by 2020.
While the government noted the increases requested by the GRTU, they did not accept them in view of the fact that consumer prices increase according to international fuel prices.
They also noted that they had offered an increase that was higher than the 2011 increase that did not “add a burden to families and businesses”.