16 March 2005

The Web

Chamber of Commerce speaks out on public holiday issue

The Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise yesterday spoke out on what is calls the “uncertain situation emerging on public holidays” after agreement on this issue was not reached during talks taking place last January on the social pact.
In a statement issued by the Chamber yesterday, the business body said, “In the current economic climate and in order to enhance the country’s competitive position, the Chamber cannot condone the General Workers Union’s determined stand to ensure that public holidays falling on a week-end are added to vacation leave of workers covered by a collective agreement.
“During the above-mentioned talks between social-partners, it was specifically mentioned that should the measure be applicable solely to those workers, its effect would be marginal, discriminatory and not immediate. It was for this reason that Government needed to resort to a change in the appropriate law for the measure to have the desired and full effect on the country’s economic and competitive predicament.”
“The longer we deceive ourselves that we can postpone remedial action for our competitiveness position, the less flexibility we would have to solve the problems and the more painful these solutions would be.”
The Chamber said it fully that the GWU must ensure the best possible conditions for its members. “Nevertheless, the Union must also take the national interest into consideration as well as the interest of the unemployed and those whose employment is currently under threat. The Chamber is convinced that if the GWU continues to pursue its current approach, the country will be led into higher unemployment and inferior working conditions for all workers including those employed in the public sector and those represented by the GWU itself. The country will have no other alternative. Everyone must realise that no country owes Malta a living and all parties are in the same ship together. If the ship goes under, we shall all sink with no exception.”
The Chamber also fully endorsed the stand expressed recently by the Malta Employers Association, which declared that employers should not be pressured by the General Workers' Union to ignore the changes in the legislation related to public holidays falling on weekends.
According to the MEA, “The amendments to the law state clearly that public holidays falling on weekends shall not be added to the annual leave entitlement, and that this legislation supersedes any existing contracts, including collective agreements. Therefore, employers are within their rights not to add public holidays falling on weekends to the vacation leave entitlements.
“The MEA expected the GWU to act responsibly, contending that any industrial action related to this issue on its part will be illegitimate, and make the same union liable for any damages cause by loss of productivity. The MEA is keeping in close contact with its members to ensure that the law is upheld. After all the amended law is intended to contribute, however marginally, to the achievement of the objective of improved competitiveness. This objective is endorsed by the same GWU. Adherence to the laws of the country cannot be the object of a dispute between a union and an employer.”

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