GWU condemns Government and discusses proposals for reform
Secretary General of the General Workers Union (GWU) Tony Zarb condemned the Government’s practice of not including the GWU’s representative on a number of Boards and Authorities this morning.
He said that if one is not comfortable with the presence of GWU members then one should not expect the cooperation of the same union at a later stage.
Mr Zarb said this in a speech at a business breakfast that discussed the GWU’s proposals regarding the social sector. “The aim of the discussion is to bring together parties sharing a common interest in order to instigate discussion and generate constructive criticism to the GWU’s document. The social sector always featured prominently on the GWU’s agenda and the proposals being made are based on social justice that promotes the support of those in need," he said.
Deputy Secretary General of the GWU Michael Parnis opened the discussion of the GWU’s proposals by saying that the policy that a patient either receives immediate treatment by paying at a private hospital or is placed on a never-ending waiting list is not acceptable and does not help patients seeking treatment at Mater Dei Hospital in a justified way. Bringing into discussion issues regarding the primary healthcare, Mr Parnis explained that due to the fac that not all polyclinics are open around the clock, the public has no option but to resort to the Emergency Unit at Mater Dei, resulting in long queues.
Social issues surround a number of anomalies regarding the pension schemes with the GWU suggesting that pensions should be at least 60% of the average national income. This and similar factors being proposed by the GWU will result in pensioners having a more affordable lifestyle that should also be complemented with the continuation of subsidised utility bills.
The proposals of the GWU for the social sector take into consideration the fact that school leavers should not spend a long time between completing their studies and joining the labour force. The GWU is proposing that students who finish school but have not found time within a given time-frame take on further studies not necessarily on the same line as their previous studies.
Work and immigration were also addressed with the GWU recommending the creation of an agency within the ETC that in conjunction with a number of NGOs can regulate the employment of immigrants and subdue the rampant abuse currently found in this sector. Deputy Secretary Michael Pisani explained how a number of Maltese employees were awarded financial compensation after the trade union took up their case at an American court, after being diagnosed with an illness that was caused by conditions at their place of work.
Professor Edward Zammit highlighted the fact that the GWU is intrinsically a political trade union with strong ties to the local labour force and hence it is its duty to protect the social sector and share its views and proposals to better this sector. “In today’s individualistic society, the value of solidarity is being lost, and everyone is simply concerned with himself. We cannot allow solidarity, the birth place of all trade unions, to die,” Prof. Zammit said.
The need for stipends as a way to support, help and incentivise student is highly acclaimed, however the GWU calls for investigations and regulations to be put in place to prevent a situation where the education of a student is turned into a money-making scheme. Prof. Zammit said that a prime example of this situation is how the Student House at university has been turned into a commercial venue resembling a shopping mall more than anything else.
CEO of the Foundation for Human Resources Development Joe Gerada hailed the GWU’s proposals of replacing the tribunal with a court for work-related cases, which bases its decisions on the economic situation of the country and not on the economic policy of the government. Statistics show that Malta is losing its competitive edge due to ever-increasing production costs, namely the expense of energy and the level of bureaucracy, said Joe Gerada, outlining that currently we are 40% behind our competitors when it comes to achieving the desired qualifications.
Members of the public and representatives of various entities made their comments based of the GWU’s proposals. Chairperson of the Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations (MCWO) Renee Laiveira explained that due to the lack of teleworking, flexi-time and childcare, the percentage of female employees is still low.
Chairperson of the Industrial Tribunal Charles Cassar mentioned that the problems facing the industrial tribunal are not only bound to the fact that there is no designated location for it to operate from but also that the parties concerned make it difficult for adjournment dates to be agreed upon.
Director of the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers Alex Tortell explained the launch of a project co-financed by the EU that run a job matching exercise for migrants and appealed that services in the immigrant sector are more migrant-friendly to increase integration of those that are legally recognised.