Po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ lip ser­vice on min­i­mum wage ‘short-sighted, ir­re­spon­si­ble and un­ac­cept­able’

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Ju­lian Bon­nici

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.

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