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Paying workers double on Sundays, triple on public holidays must be a legal obligation

GWU wants to force employers pay workers double on Sundays, triple on public holidays

yannick_pace
Yannick Pace
4 September 2017, 1:58pm
Union secretary general Josef Bugeja said that many employees working for contracts or in the retail industry do not receive adequate compensation for working while others are enjoying their free time

 The General Workers’ Union has called on the government to update employment laws to allow employees working on Sundays and public holidays to be paid double and triple their hourly rate respectively.

Addressing a press conference, during which the union presented its proposals ahead of the upcoming national budget for 2018, GWU Bugeja emphasised the need for government to make good on a number of its pledges prior to last June’s election.

Among these proposals, said Bugeja, was the government’s pledge to return public holidays falling on the weekend to workers.

“They were removed at a time the country was in a crisis. This is no longer the case, and the government should see to it that they are returned as quickly as possible,” he said.

Bugeja stressed that the GWU was “willing to discuss” the matter with social partners but insisted that “if the intention is for public holidays to be given back as bank holidays”, it would be problematic for some sectors, meaning that a different solution would have to be found.

Among the proposals on workers’ conditions being put forward by the union was legislation that ensured that all workers working in the same workplace are paid an equivalent salary, irrespective of who they had been engaged by.

Furthermore, the union is calling on the government to implement a reduction in tax paid on part-time work as well as overtime work, an increase in in-work benefits for those at risk of poverty as well as the introduction of transgender leave for all those undergoing treatment related to transitioning between sexes.

The GWU also called for a discussion on having all workers join a trade union of their choice in order to further clamp down on abuses on the part of some employers.

Economy, education and infrastructure

Turning to the economy, education and infrastructure, the GWU has once again stressed the need for a solution to be found on Air Malta, as well as the introduction of a 24-hour childcare service for those working on a shift-basis.

Another priority in this regard, said Bugeja, was ensuring an adequate bus service to industrial estates.

“The Hal Far Industrial estate, for example, has problem in that it has no early morning and late-night bus service. This means everyone needs to go to work with his car and it increases traffic,” stressed Bugeja.

Moreover, the union was also suggesting an educational campaign with students that would seek to better inform them of their rights and obligations when signing work contracts. This, he said, would work towards students having a better idea of what is acceptable leading them not to sign contracts which were “barely legal”.

Housing and society

On social housing, the union said it was high time for there to be more investment in social housing and an increase in subsidies, adding however that this would not completely solve the current problem with the housing market.

Pushed back against allegations that nothing has been done on social housing, Bugeja pointed out that a situation had developed were people did not qualify for social housing, but at the same time could not afford to rent out or buy their own property.

This was partly being driven by the huge influx of foreign workers, he added.

As a result, the union was calling for new schemes similar to Home Ownership Scheme, as well as more schemes like that agreed upon with APS bank so that “everyone has the opportunity to own their home”.

As regards the cost of living, the GWU called for there to an adjustment in the Retail Price Index – the mechanism used to calculate living expenses based on the price of a fixed “basket of goods”.

Pensions

The maximum pension, Bugeja said, should be increased. He added that there should also be a revision of a number of pensions, including the basic pension rate.

Moreover, he said that women who would have entered the workforce at the age of 16 or 17, but who had then left their job because of “prevalent cultural norms” of the time, should have the years they worked before the “recognised year” to be considered in the calculation of the contributory pension.

In addition to this, the union is also calling on the government to allow for people working more than one part-time job instead of a full-time job to have their social security paid up to a maximum of 40 hours of work every week.

As things stand, said Bugeja, social security was only paid on the highest paying part-time job, which meant that those working 40 hours a week or more on a part-time basis were not entitled to the same pension as those working the same hours on a full-time basis. 

yannick_pace
Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...