Home Jobs ‘Hurt and shocked’: former GWU official opens up about why he quit the union

‘Hurt and shocked’: former GWU official opens up about why he quit the union

‘Hurt and shocked’: former GWU official opens up about why he quit the union

A former GWU official has opened up about how he felt hurt and shocked to learn that top union officials were putting Labour party and business interests before the fight for workers’ rights.

In a four-and-a-half-hour podcast with Jon Mallia, former GWU secretary Jeremy Camilleri spent a few minutes speaking about how he felt sidelined and isolated during his tenure in one of the union’s most influential roles.

He said he felt he was the odd one out because several people within the union put business and PL party interests above workers’ interests.

Camilleri said he was not on bad terms with the union and was still friends with many within it, however, the events leading up to his resignation hurt him.

“I was fighting for a cause, which I won’t go into here, and I was hoping to get the support of many people in the union, whom I thought were my friends,” he told Mallia.

“It was a good cause that I really believed in. But when I needed their support I turned around to realise that they were all against me.”

He did not give further details on the incident that led him to quit.

Photo: Podcast ta’ Jon.

Camilleri stepped down from his role as secretary of the GWU’s government and parastatal workers’ section four years ago. 

Back then the union had said he quit because he felt the time had come to pursue other challenges, however, in the podcast he sheds light on the reasons that led him to leave.

“When good trade unionists try to work hard and strive to do their job well, they are viewed as a threat,” he said.

“And I became isolated.”

An outspoken and passionate opinionist, Camilleri openly supports the Labour Party but he is one of the few who have publicly criticised the government on issues varying from the environment, to governance and corruption.

‘Election skipped’

In the interview, which at the time of publication is only available to Patreon subscribers of Mallia’s podcast, Camilleri also claims he was told that the GWU has skipped two internal elections and managed to get away with it.

A general congress that is usually convened every few years to elect new union leaders was postponed twice in a row, he said.

“I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been hearing it and I haven’t seen news reports of any elections,” he said.

“The union had said the election was postponed due to the pandemic, but apparently it still hasn’t happened. And if this is true, something is wrong.” 

Times of Malta sent questions about the matter to the GWU.

Photo: Podcast ta' Jon.Photo: Podcast ta’ Jon.

GWU and UĦM in bed with PL and PN?

Camilleri opened up about his time in the union while answering a question from a follower of the podcast.

The follower asked him whether it was true that the GWU and the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM) were ‘in bed’ with Labour and PN, and that whenever their party was in government they did very little to strive for the interests of workers.

Camilleri said that was “a realistic” view of both unions.

While there were some good trade unionists in both, others were not willing to cross the party and stand up for workers’ interests. He claimed he observed this within the GWU.

Moreover, GWU also had business interests, he said, and they were in conflict with workers’ interests.

“At one point I was negotiating for some workers’ rights and someone in the union approached me saying the GWU had struck a business merger with the company,” he said, explaining that the union that was supposed to defend the rights of the workers of the company was doing business with the management of that same company.

“It shocked me and I started to feel out of place. A union is the bedrock of the fight for workers’ rights. A workers’ union is, by its very nature, more socialist than a political party. And to see those things happening in the GWU shocked me and hurt me.”

He said he also voiced his concern internally to no avail.

Photo: Podcast ta' Jon.Photo: Podcast ta’ Jon.

‘There were several signs’

“There were several signs and I should have known to leave before,” he said.

“When the Żonqor University project was announced I came out against it and I was asked to appear in a video opposing the project. When I ran the idea by union secretary general Josef Bugeja, he told me we’d better not pronounce ourselves publicly on the issue.

“Around a week later, union president Victor Carachi wrote an opinion piece in Times of Malta praising the proposed project.

“I protested a lot back then. There were signs that I was the odd one out in there.”

Camilleri said he was hurt because he invested his life in the union and lost romantic relationships because of it, and at one point was so burnt out that he had to seek psychiatric help.

‘General unions vanished’

Camilleri also criticised the GWU and the UĦM for “vanishing” from the news and from public fora.

“You almost never hear them say anything anymore, and they are meant to be the biggest drivers of change for workers,” he said.

“The smaller unions are doing a better job, but the two biggest unions have become sluggish.

“One of the reasons is that many people who are entering into trade unionism are not genuine trade unionists. They choose it because they think it’s an easier job.”

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