Employers’ body wants food courier sector to be regulated by wage order to curb abuse

In its Budget 2023 proposals, the Malta Employers Association is calling for ‘airy fairy’ projects like the Gozo tunnel and metro to be scrapped and more judicious use of public funds

Bolt food couriers went on a strike in July to protest against meagre earnings
Bolt food couriers went on a strike in July to protest against meagre earnings

Food couriers should be afforded more protection through a wage regulation order, the Malta Employers’ Association is suggesting in its Budget 2023 proposals.

The MEA said many third country nationals operating in this sector were doing so in an unregulated manner after government changed the rules to allow non-EU nationals to become self-employed during the pandemic.

“It is being suggested to set up a committee within the Employment Relations Board to address the situation and design a wage regulation order for this sector that seeks a balance between the welfare of the food deliverers, the companies providing the service and clients,” the MEA said.

The issue of compensation to food couriers was recently cast in the spotlight after Bolt couriers went on strike amid claims that up to half of their earnings go to employment agencies, while the food delivery platform kept lowering delivery rates. The company said it never formally received requests to discuss the issues from its couriers, while social activists described the situation as modern slavery.

The MEA said in its budget proposals that it will continue to speak up against abuses in the labour market, irrespective of whether these were perpetrated by employers or employees.

The employer organisation also called for a reality check in the wake of global shocks, particularly the war in Ukraine, which it said “plunged the global community into uncertainty, shortages and fear of an escalating and drawn-out conflict”.

Within this context, MEA is calling for more judicious public spending: “The current strain on public finances calls for a rationalisation of expenditure to bring the deficit to manageable and sustainable levels.”

'Airy fairy projects' should be scrapped

It called for “airy fairy projects” like the Gozo tunnel and the metro to be shelved in favour of more pressing infrastructural priorities such as the distribution system of electricity, infrastructure for electric vehicles and changes to outdated sewage systems in parts of Malta.

MEA is also calling for better governance and full disclosure of government contracts, and expenditures on specific projects. “Fiscal morality also entails judicious expenditure of public funds. It is high time that government seeks to enforce the debit aspect of fiscal morality and seriously clamps down on any wastage of public funds and abuse of social benefits, particularly ensuring that tax-payers’ funds are used diligently and not squandered on inefficient recipients.”

The MEA is also proposing measures to encourage people to continue working after pensionable age to supplement their pension income and top-ups for those aged 75 and over to mitigate the higher spend on medicines.

The organisation is also warning that past agreements that incorporated the cost of living wage increase into yearly wage rises agreed with unions should remain in force. Employers fear that with COLA expected to reach substantial levels as a result of rising inflation, workers would seek compensation over and above the statutory raise.

“The surge in COLA, which was not anticipated up till a year ago, may result in pressures to revise current agreements, as there may be employees who will only be awarded the COLA for 2023. As an employer, the public sector should ensure that existing agreements are adhered to, and not set precedents that could have serious consequences on the survival of enterprises in the private sector,” MEA said.