Employees will be biggest losers of announced measures – Chamber of Commerce

Security staff wearing protective face masks and gloves wait for visitors in Valletta
Security staff wearing protective face masks and gloves wait for visitors at the side-entrance to St. John's Co-Cathedral, after Malta imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals on the island in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus, in Valletta, Malta March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry warned that the government announced measures will not stop job losses. In a statement, the Chamber expressed its disappointment at the measures which were announced.

Describing the measures as falling short, the Chamber said that employees will be the biggest losers from the support package despite repeated announcements made by Prime Minister Robert Abela to safeguard jobs.

The Chamber noted that subsidies on salaries was a priority measure for it and that such support should be extended to ensure that affected companies maintain employees on their books while business is at standstill. The Chamber maintained that the support would prevent large-scale redundancies which would become a financial burden for the government once it has to pay unemployment benefits. Further, such assistance would ensure Maltese companies’ strong competitiveness position upon resumption of business, the Chamber argued.

The Chamber suggested that in cases of companies suffering in excess of 25% loss in turnover, Government should pay 50% of the employee’s salary up to a maximum of the average salary with the employer covering a further 25%. It observed that the announcement made on Wednesday was equivalent to a mere subsidy of 20% of the employee’s salary at minimum wage.

The Chamber maintained that the announced measures will make it impossible for employers to avoid significant redundancies.

“In a scenario of looming mass layoffs, even the deferment of payment of payroll taxes and VAT, which accounts for the bulk of the package, becomes a redundant measure. This amount will not be paid after recovery but lost forever if there are significant job losses and declines in local sales,” the statement reads.

Disappointment was also expressed to the fact that the government will be implementing measures to reduce public sector spending.

It also noted that almost one-half of Government’s €1.8 billion stimulus package is composed of loan guarantees for business which may be leveraged to €4.5 billion via the banking system. The chamber said that it feared that their potential effectiveness has been placed into serious doubt by the insufficiency of the wage subsidy measure.

The chamber welcomed the measure to partially offset the employer’s cost for quarantine leave at a rate almost equivalent to minimum wage.

“Even this, however, will not fully compensate employers for abuse by those employees who intentionally self-inflict quarantine,” the Chamber said.

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