Or­gan­i­sa­tions de­mand 3.5% in­crease in min­i­mum wage for 3 con­sec­u­tive years

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

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

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