Employers dismiss Joseph Muscat’s plan to restore Sunday holiday benefits as ‘populist’ and ‘irresponsible’

Businesses and companies could not afford to restore any public holidays that fall on a weekend, Malta Employers Association director Joseph Farrugia has warned

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Paul Cocks
3 May 2017, 8:30am
Malta Employers Association director Joseph Farrugia claimed that businesses and companies cannot afford returning holidays which fall on weekends to workers
Malta Employers Association director Joseph Farrugia claimed that businesses and companies cannot afford returning holidays which fall on weekends to workers
The prime minister’s promise to give back to workers any public holidays that fall on a weekend has met with stiff resistance by employers’ and industry organisations who have dismissed the proposal as a populist and irresponsible promise that they are not willing to consider.

Joseph Muscat yesterday announced five major proposals that the Labour Party will be including in its electoral manifesto. One of those proposals would see public holidays falling on a weekend being added to workers’ annual leave or automatically given on the following Monday, introducing the concept of bank holidays to Malta.

“One of the complaints I have heard most often these past four years is that people don’t have enough time to spend with their families,” the Prime Minister said.

But Malta Employers Association director Joseph Farrugia told MaltaToday that businesses and companies could not afford such a measure.

“This is a purely populist measure that employers are not in a position to consider, especially considering the current economic circumstances,” he said. “With the level of competition our members face, coupled with other measures like the new increase in the minimum wage, this is an unrealistic proposal as things stand.”

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, too, warned against “populist and irresponsible promises” and noted that it had warned both political parties on numerous occasions – and in no unequivocal terms – not to enter a race to out-bid each other with electoral promises that risk undermining the foundation of economic competitiveness.

“This would be nothing short of irresponsible,” the Chamber said in a statement. “The Chamber has gone on record to state that it regards the issue of public holidays as a closed case. Similarly, as far as employers are concerned the minimum wage agreement is also final.”

The Chamber said that, in the case of the minimum wage increase, it took six months of sensitive and courageous negotiations to make sure not to upset industrial relations, wage relativities and export competitiveness.

“For the time being, the Chamber shall not express itself further on other ideas mentioned in the context of the electoral campaign, other than warning against populist and irresponsible promises,” it said. “The Malta Chamber is eager to learn more about the workings of such promises which till now have not yet been made public.”

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Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...