Malta’s two largest trade unions delivered contrasting verdicts of the economic measures announced by the government on Monday, with the General Workers Union praising the government and the UĦM Voice of the Workers lamenting that it prioritised businesses over workers far too much.
“The government saw fit to prioritise business and failed to help workers and their families,” UĦM chief executive Josef Vella said in his initial reaction to the measures announced.
The union lamented that while employers had guaranteed a minimum top-up of €400 a month – over and above the wage supplement of €800 paid by the government – many effectively avoided doing so by claiming that they could not afford to do so. It insisted that such workers should not have been cheated out of these €400, with Vella stating that this agreement should have been honoured.
Vella said that now that the mini-budget was seeking to boost the local economy, the union expected that employees’ take-home pay should now revert to normal.
UĦM laments lack of compensation to frontliners
The union, which represents a sizeable number of workers in the health sector, also expressed its disappointment that those who had been on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic did not receive the compensation they deserve.
It said that it expected more incentives to promote a green economy, including schemes to help families invest in photovoltaic panels.
The UĦM welcomed the €100 vouchers that will be given to those aged 16 and up, though it said that the scheme should also be extended to cover younger children.
Though it deemed the reduction of utility bills for businesses to be positive, it said that it expected a similar measure for workers. Vella pointed out that during the pandemic “many worked from home, and as a result, their use of water and electricity increased.”
The union also expressed its hope that the government would produce a national policy to promote teleworking, in the wake of a pandemic which saw many work remotely to limit the spread of the pandemic.
Government ‘strengthening jobs,’ GWU says
In contrast, the GWU said that the government clearly showed its intention to invest in the local economy, stating that this was only possible as a result of the economic growth it achieved in recent years.
“This economic surplus allowed the government to create an economic stimulus which promotes investment in traditional and new sectors alike, which ultimately leads to the strengthening of the local job market,” the union maintained.
It said that the measures announced would strengthen trust among social partners, and welcomed the government’s decision not to impose new taxes.
The ensuing fiscal deficit, it added, was linked to new investment which would bring economic growth, which would ultimately make up for the temporary increase in the national debt.
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