Claudio Grech opposes MEA’s unpaid sick leave proposal
Nationalist MP and shadow minister for Economic Affairs and Competitiveness Claudio Grech told this newspaper that he does not agree with the proposal made by the Malta Employers Association (MEA) for the first day of sick leave to be unpaid. Grech said that this kind of proposal ran counter to the entire economic model and what it stands for. The Nationalist Party is still to discuss the issue.
The issue for the first day of sick leave to be unpaid was included in the MEA’s budget proposals last week. It said that many companies were concerned about the growing incidence of sick leave, particularly sporadic sick leave linked to weekends.
“You cannot address these issues by impinging on employees’ social and health rights. Just because there is a pattern of people calling in sick, that doesn’t mean imposing unpaid sick leave on everyone. It is not the solution,” he said.
Grech added: “It’s just throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” He also emphasised the importance of ensuring that employees had the right support in order to curb such abuse. If the system is abused, however, employers already had extensive rights to detect and control it, he said. “So I don’t think moving forward with this draconian measure – which could negatively affect other workers in terms of contagious illnesses – is worth it.” The MEA and its proposal have also faced backlash from a number of unions, with Forum Unions Maltin stressing that all cases of sick leave supported by a medical certificate are considered genuine. It follows, therefore, that this form of leave should not even be under discussion. The union added, however, that it was against any sort of abuse and was ready to collaborate with those seeking to put an end to it.
The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) also disagreed with the proposal, which states that “the first day of sick leave should be unpaid and treated as a waiting day.” The union said that it was unacceptable such regressive measures were even being proposed and discussed in this day and age, especially when the country was going through a positive economic period and following electoral campaigns promising everything to everyone. The MUT stressed that the government should instead implement public holidays falling on weekends at once.
Furthermore, UĦM - Voice of the Workers said it was categorically against the proposal issued by the MEA. The union’s leader, Josef Vella, said that the union would never accept this situation, adding that it rejected any “illegal” changes to the conditions of sick leave as this would be detrimental to the rights of workers.
Prime Minster Joseph Muscat also joined in the chorus of disapproval over the proposal, saying it was a “a nonstarter.”