Organisations demand 3.5% increase in minimum wage for 3 consecutive years
Organisations taking part in a campaign to urge the government to increase the minimum wage demanded a 3.5 per cent upgrade for three consecutive years yesterday.
This should be over and above any cost of living increase given to other workers, the organisations said.
Enterprises which cannot cope with such an increase should be assisted by the government, the organisations said.
The organisations participating in the campaign are: Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, Caritas, Forum Bormliż, Integra Foundation, Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust, Malta Humanist Association, Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, Millennium Chapel, Moviment Graffitti, Paulo Freire Institute, Peace Lab, The Critical Institute, Third World Group and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.
They said that increasing the minimum wage will lead to fairer distribution of wealth and resources.
At present, the minimum wage for persons over 18 is set at €4.20 per hour from which national insurance is deducted. They argued that this is not enough to allow families of the lowest paid workers to meet their basic needs.
“Economic data related to Malta’s economic performance in the past few years, according to the economist Karm Farrugia, our economy can sustain a 10 per cent to 12 per cent increase in the minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage would enable workers with dependents to meet their basic needs,” they argued.
Charles Miceli from Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar asked: “If we don’t raise the minimum wage today, when the economy is doing well, then when will the right time be?”
He also said that the current cost of living adjustment does not represent all sections of society, stating that, for example, those on lower wages are more likely to pay high rents etc.
He expects that discussions will be lengthy; however he said that eventually the Prime Minister will need to take a decision rather than let the discussion gon on forever.
Leonid McKay from Caritas stressed that this campaign is based on research. “A minimum wage is not decent if the families do not have enough financial resources to buy the most essential of goods.“
Paul Magri from the Paulo Freire Institute spoke about the realities people on a minimum wage face, having to take up part-time jobs, meaning that they have less time to spend with their families.
Erica Schembri from Moviment Graffiti said that wages in Malta are generally low, so if the minimum wage rises, the lower wages will also.
“We need decent wages. We cannot leave this role in hands of businesses as they will look to their interests and not those of workers”.
Asked whether the rise in other wages could have negative effects, Mr Mckay said that from studies carried out abroad, the economic impact of a minimum wage rise is relatively small, especially when the economy is doing well.
Asked about the living wage, the representatives said that currently the definition is not clear, but once clearly defined they would be in favour, as long as it is statutory and helps those at the lower end of the earnings scale.
They explained that the UHM and the GWU were both contacted and are considering joining the campaign. They stressed however, that without them their campaign is still strong and would not be weakened.
They also said that eventually a second campaign regarding the cost of living would be needed. “It is unfair that we cannot have any control on the cost of living,” they said.
The Partit Demokratiku (PD) said in a statement that the revision of the minimum wage needs to be seriously studied in order to implement the necessary changes for there to be a just national minimum wage.
The PD gave its support to the coalition of organisations in favour of social justice, as well as the GWU which is pushing for a discussion on the living wage.
Photo: James Bianchi