Workers employed at three state hospitals by Steward Health Care and by their predecessors Vitals Global Healthcare will enjoy the same rights, benefits and working conditions as public sector employees doing the same job after an agreement was reached by the UĦM Voice of the Workers.
The long-running dispute was resolved after the government agreed to absorb the workers which had been employed by Vitals and Steward. These employees will now be transferred to books of the Foundation for Medical Services, and thus benefit from the conditions of the collective agreement as their colleagues have done.
UĦM chief executive Josef Vella described the deal as a victory not just for the union and its members, but also for all those who believed in the principle of equal pay for equal work.
“This agreement represents a victory against precarious employment which in recent years resulted in Steward workers getting paid thousands less a year when compared to their Ministry of Health colleagues despite doing the exact same duties,” he remarked.
The issue dates back to 2016, when the Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital were controversially transferred to Vitals Global Healthcare, a concession that was shortly afterwards transferred to Steward.
While existing employees had remained on the public sector, Vitals and Steward began recruiting new staff with inferior conditions. The UĦM said that over a period of four years, certain workers earned up to €6,800 less than their colleagues despite doing the same job, while certain working conditions – such as vacation leave, allowances and family-friendly measures – were inferior.
The UĦM said that it was constrained to take industrial action in the face of inaction, but said that ultimately, its insistence and pressure paid off.
The years of service that the workers had accumulated with the company will be kept in consideration: they will be transferred to their respective scale in the public service as if they had been in the public sector since the very beginning.