Charles Miceli: minimum wage increase a far cry from original proposal

Campaign for a Decent Minimum Wage says increase not enough to make a truly tangible difference in the lives of the working poor

Veteran social justice campaigner Charles Miceli said KPMD was not consulted about agreement
Veteran social justice campaigner Charles Miceli said KPMD was not consulted about agreement
Prime Minister welcomes agreement to increase minimum wage

The increase in the minimum wage agreed upon by the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) and the government is not enough to make a truly tangible difference in the lives of the working poor – people living on the minimum wage – according to Charles Miceli of the Campaign for a Decent Minimum Wage (KPMD).

There are currently calculated to be around 5,000 persons on minimum wage, who will – as per the new agreement – be entitled to a mandatory €3 increase per week upon completion of the first year of employment with the same employer and a further €3 weekly upon completion of the second year. 

The agreement also stipulates that in 2018 and 2019, persons on the minimum wage will earn an extra €1 per week in addition to this year's COLA. 

By 2019, therefore, the minimum wage will have been increased by a maximum of €8 per week - or €416 - in addition to the normal cost of living adjustment (COLA). 

This is a far cry from what the KPMD was calling for: an increase of 11% over three years – €80 monthly over and above COLA increases. The increase announced yesterday works out at around 4.4%.

Miceli told MaltaToday that, while pleased that at long last the matter had been addressed, he felt that the increase agreed upon was not enough, especially because of other market forces, like the price of food and rent.

“I welcome the fact that the parties have acknowledged the need to study this crucial issue and that they have agreed to revise the minimum wage every four years,” he said.

“In a way I am satisfied that we have reached half way to the targets that the Campaign had established, but this means that we have more work to do to ensure that people earning a minimum wage receive a decent increase that could make a difference in their standard of living.”

Miceli was quick to acknowledge that even the campaign never had any intention of rocking the economy too much, and that was why – he said – the KPMD had proposed the 11% increase be spread over three years.

“The most important aspect of our proposal was social justice,” he said. “We wanted to ensure that the wealth generated was being distributed equally across society.”

Miceli confirmed that the KPMD had not been directly consulted by the MCESD about the agreement.

“Sure, we met out of our own initiative with various ministers and even the deputy prime minister, but we were never told what was being considered with regards to this agreement,” he said.

Miceli said the KPMD would be meeting to discuss the developments, before drawing up a plan of action for the future.

In a press briefing this morning, Gordon Cordina, who was commissioned by the MCESD to study the issue and present recommendations, acknowledged that this was nearly half what the social partners within the KPMD had been asking for but he insisted the council had looked not to create any undue ripples in the system. 

"Let us be clear that this agreement was not intended to and will not eradicate poverty in Malta," he said.  Minister for social dialogue Helena Dalli said that the agreement with social partners was also a result of a strengthened social dialogue that has been synonymous with this administration. 

"It took a lot of goodwill and a commitment to work in the interests of the weakest, but we managed to reach a unanimous consensus," she said. 

John Bencini, chairman of the MCESD, said that he was very pleased that an agreement had been reached to set up a low wage commission. 

Every four years, the MCESD will be presenting its recommendations to the government of the day to replace the mere cost of living adjustments with regards to the minimum wage.