Workers' rights denied - Michael Briguglio

Time, Saturday, 1st March 2008



Andrew Borg-Cardona (February 25) claims to make a factual response to my letter (February 22) which speaks about the importance of work-related issues in the general election. Dr Borg Cardona says that workers' rights have long been assured in Malta, and provides a legalistic answer to justify his point.

While it is true that Malta's Employment and Industrial Relations Act has brought about various legal improvements for workers in Malta, I wonder if Dr Borg Cardona is aware of the various struggles undertaken by trade unions regarding working conditions of various categories of workers in both the public and private sectors.

To give two examples, workers such as those on contract and on casual arrangements are frequently denied the same rights as full-timers, and, in many instances, part-timers are even forced to declare their status as self-employed, thus losing various rights.
I wonder if Dr Borg Cardona is aware of the fact that various employers do not allow their workers to join trade unions, irrespective of legislation. Perhaps he is also unaware that certain shops pay their workers in kind, and that various construction sites do not follow health and safety regulations.

Rather than quoting legislation which, incidentally, is not being enforced on a widespread level, Dr Borg Cardona should perhaps look at the real world and the experiences of thousands of workers. Unfortunately, many workers cannot stand up for their rights as they fear losing their jobs.

Dr Borg Cardona would surely agree that Malta has minimal standards in certain workers' rights and conditions, when compared to other EU countries. Purchasing power, maternity leave and statutory provisions for workers' participation in decision making are cases in point.
Hence the need for politics which puts workers' rights at the top of the agenda - politics based on equality and social justice, and which does its utmost to ensure that workers' standard of living and quality of life improve, and that workers are not merely considered to be disposable tools to be exploited. The state has a key responsibility in this regard.

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