Malta
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Former BCA chief cannot claim compensation but tribunal leaves settlement door open

A former chief executive of the Building and Construction Authority, Karl Azzopardi, has obtained an eleventh-hour meeting with the ministry for public works to reach an agreement for a settlement after his voluntary resignation from the BCA.

Azzopardi, who was the BCA’s first chief executive and was tasked with planning its capacity-building, insisted in an industrial tribunal claim he filed that he was entitled to the remainder of his contract benefits or alternative employment after his resignation.

Azzopardi claimed that he had been asked to move aside after minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, sometime after May 2022, convened him for a meeting in which he expressed disagreement with his work at the BCA.

Azzopardi said Zrino Azzopardi had said that he had consulted at a higher level before coming to the decision that the chairman should no longer stay in his role.

But both the minister and permanent secretary Carlos Tabone insisted that no pressure was brought on Azzopardi to resign, neither was there a suggestion that he should make way for someone else. Tabone insisted that it was Azzopardi who suggested that he move on out of his role

Azzopardi says that he had suggested he would comply with the spirit of what the minister had communicated to him, by resigning while making clear he wanted what was owed to him in his contract of employment.

In its decision, the Industrial Tribunal said that while any form of termination could be liable to rightful compensation on the remainder of the contract, Azzopardi’s contract only allowed such compensation in the case of wrongful dismissal.

The Tribunal also felt that Azzopardi had not protested the minister’s observations, and that the CEO was not obliged at that point to step aside even in the face of the criticism.

Instead, it found, Azzopardi had tendered his voluntary resignation when “the bargaining power was in hands at that point... considering his experience in running organisations and his tertiary education, he could have easily told the minister the ball was in his court if he wanted to terminate his job.”

While the Industrial Tribunal declared that Azzopardi was not entitled to any compensation under the clauses governing his contract, it invited both sides to meet on 26 November and discuss a settlement, before returning to the tribunal for a final decision.