Clau­dio Grech op­poses MEA’s un­paid sick leave pro­posal

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Re­becca Iversen

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.”

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