Political parties’ lip service on minimum wage ‘short-sighted, irresponsible and unacceptable’
The “lip service” from the political parties on raising minimum wage without consultation from the employer representatives was “short-sighted, irresponsible and unacceptable”, and was nothing more than “a vote grabbing exercise rather than reasoned dialogue”, the Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Employer’s Association told The Malta Independent.
Conversely, the General Workers Union told The Malta Independent that the organisation would always be in favour of an increase in the minimum wage since it is to their belief that workers and their families should be entitled to earn a decent living.
The union went on to say that they felt that the current political discourse was an opportune moment for the government, together with the relevant social partners to conduct a comprehensive study on the living wage in Malta.
This comes after the Prime Minister said the government would intervene if the trade unions and employer associations could not reach an agreement on the issue. Dr Muscat said that these measures formed part of the “social revolution” that the country is ready to undergo in order to improve the conditions of its workforce.
He went on to say that the Labour Party were, “The movement of change and as a result of this we will always find people who try to suppress our ideas.”
The Chamber said that it has consistently adopted a cautious stand on the minimum wage. This is because whilst it recognises that the minimum wage is not the sole determinant of competitiveness, changes to the minimum wage can lead to far-reaching effects across the economy and national competitiveness which could can alter the country’s socioeconomic balance.
The Chamber believes that the private sector is “the motor of the Maltese economy” which finances the country’s social security system; and that “endangering the private’s sector’s competitiveness and Malta’s export potential may indeed harm the very basis of our economy”.
It was for this reason that the organisation maintains that the country’s efforts should be “targeted specifically at eradicating poverty whilst safeguarding competitiveness and long-term economic growth.”
The Chamber referenced a report commissioned by the MCESD which sheds doubt as to whether raising the minimum wage would be the ideal measure to solve the problem of poverty. The report, they claim, suggests that it would be more meaningful to use more direct and targeted action.
According to the MEA, the available figures on minimum wage actually reveal that less figures reveal that less than 3% of those in full-time employment today actually earn a minimum wage (4,000 out of a labour force of 180,000), and therefore any intervention should be focused on helping out this minority rather than shaking up the entire wage determination mechanism.
The MEA called for more focused assistance to minimum wage earners such as the in-work benefit scheme; the reduction of the number of persons on minimum wage by moving people to higher value added employment thusly making low value added jobs redundant; and the minimisation of the duration that it takes for a person to earn the minimum wage by legislation mandatory wage increases in the second or third year of employment.
The GWU did say that the strengthening of the minimum wage structure does not need to be the ultimate goal, but rather it should form part of a process in which the country can find a way to improve the living conditions for all workers.
It was also quick to point out that the living wage also referred to pensioners and persons who live on benefits, and to not just the working poor.
The union also stressed that it will continue to be open to discussing every proposal which results in the immediate improvement of the living conditions of the persons earning the minimum wage or a bit higher.
UHM Voice of the Workers was not able to give a comment since the issue needs to be discussed internally.