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Update 2 | Employers manage to infuriate unions with ‘waiting day’ proposal

One after the other, workers’ representatives denounced the Malta Employers Association for proposing that the first day of sick leave be unpaid

Staff Reporter
25 August 2017, 9:24am
Last updated on 25 August 2017, 4:45pm
Malta's employers association has managed to infuriate workers' unions over one of its proposed measures for Budget 2018, which would see workers not being paid on their first day of sick leave.

The first to oppose it was the General Workers’ Union, who yesterday immediately issued a statement accused the Malta Employers Association of turning back time.

But today, more unions joined the chorus of disapproval, including the Malta Union of Teachers, the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM), Forum and the Malta Union of Banking Employees (MUBE).

Employers argue that not paying the first day of sick leave would address the abuse of sick leave, especially that linked to the weekend. The proposed that this be called “a waiting day”.

However, workers’ representatives argue that the proposal is regressive and would only contribute to the abuse of workers.

The MUT expressed its shock at that “such regressive measures are even proposed and discussed in this day and age, especially when the country is passing through a positive economic period and following electoral campaigns in which everything was promised to everyone”.

The MUT argued that, instead of the MEA coming up with such proposals, the government should instead focus on delivering the promise related to public holidays that fall on the weekend to be implemented at once.

“Instead of such backward proposals, the MUT favours measures that invest in employees, promoting and safeguarding physical and mental health, safety, and increasing the quality of life to tackle issues such as work-life imbalance and burnout,” the MUT said.

By way of example, the MUT said it has been working with the Directorate for Educational Services, within the Ministry for Education, and with the Superintendent for Public Health so that a number of identified educators to obtain the inoculation for Hepatitis and other chronic diseases without incurring any fees.

“This should be the way forward to decrease sick leave. Treating employees with suspicion and increasing monetary burdens of the unlucky ones who fall ill, on the other hand, is certainly not the way forward,” it argued.

Forum Unions Maltin said it has insisted that all sick leave be compensated, during a meeting with the Employment Relations Board in the presence of several unions, including the MEA.

Forum argued that all sick leave which is medically certified is genuine and there should be no doubts about it being paid. At the same time, it insisted that it was against any form of abuse. and therefore, there should be measures to address any abuse.
On its part, the UHM said that the proposal was “illegal”.

MUBE said it was surprised that MEA proposed such a “populist” measure, as it already defeats the whole scope of a planned approach.

MUBE said it was against abuse but argued that MEA’s proposal effectively punishes the genuine cases and the performers.

“The subject is sensitive, delicate and needs discussion whilst focus is needed on how to manage ‘abusers’ and not act with prejudice against the whole workforce,” MUBE said.

“Planned approaches need mature debate, dialogue and a lot of common sense. Employers should invest in quality work and decent work ethic whilst providing healthy working environments should be top priority.”

MUBE argued that “MEA’s shooting from the hip, at what comes across hoping to land a win, is definitely not acceptable by any standard”.