21 AUGUST 2002
The Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) is calling for a wage increase, while the Nationalist government is in favour of retaining a wage freeze and imposing thresholds. The call comes after the government issued public service figures showing millions in arrears after a collective agreement signed after the 1998 election.
UHM spokesman Mario Sacco would not be drawn into saying how much the unions were asking as a wage increase, but it is clear that any fundamental rise would lead to a tremor in the governments shaky fiscal budget.
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday, Mario Sacco explained, "It is unacceptable that the government proposes a two-year moratorium on wage increases.
"A structure should be included for increases to be considered, at least."
The UHM has submitted its own counter proposals in the latest round of talks with the government in negotiating the new collective agreement - after convening the executives of three sectional committees - General Services, and the Departments of Health and Public Services.
The public service is over-staffed and bloated and consecutive governments have refused to introduce draconian measures to reduce the staff complement.
When asked by this newspaper yesterday about the contentious half-day issue, Mr Sacco commented that there was no mention of working longer hours in summer. "Usually that happens at a departmental level, where the government feels that in order to offer a better service, some departments should work longer hours. A case in point is the Customs Department," he elaborates.
"On another note, we seem to be on the point of finalising better salaries for casual and part-timers. Even the question of taking half-day leave has been successfully tackled. We are also discussing a review of allowances that are paid out, such as high risk, shift, on-call and health-risk allowances.
"We hope that the counter-proposals, which were sent at the beginning of this week, will be the medium through which solutions could be quickly reached," concluded Mr Sacco optimistically.