The political controversy on the proposed working time directive was simply a storm in a teacup.
Back in May the Nationalist Party scored political points by attacking Labour MEP John Attard Montalto for abstaining in a vote in the European parliament on this directive, which could potentially deprive Maltese workers of their right to work an unlimited amount of overtime.
But statistics published by the National Office of Statistics show that the proposed working time directive limiting the working week to an annual average of 48 hours will have a very limited effect on the Maltese labour market.
These statistics reveal that only 3.1 per cent of Maltese workers work more than 10 hours of overtime per week.
It is this restricted category of workers, which is most likely to bear the brunt of the proposed EU directive, which limits the working week to 48 hours.
These statistics, based on the Labour Force Survey, show that the average working week in Malta amounts to 38.1 hours, well below the 48 hours limit set by the EU’s working time directive.
The average working week in the 25 EU countries amounts to 38.5 hours, slightly higher than the Maltese average. But workers in new EU member states like Poland and Latvia tend to work longer hours than their European and Maltese counterparts. In fact the average working week in Latvia amounts to 43.3 hours. In Poland workers spend 43 hours a week at work.
In May the European Parliament had voted to phase out the opt-out clause, so that within three years of the new directive coming into force, no-one would work more than 48 hours per week, including overtime, averaged over 12 months.
On that occasion the Nationalist Party media went in to a frenzy attacking European Socialists and Greens for voting in favour of removing the opt out clause.
All Maltese MEPs with the exception of John Attard Montalto had voted against the opt-out clause.
The statistics published by the NSO show that Maltese politicians had exaggerated the implications of the proposed working time directive on Malta.
NSO statistics show that Maltese workers work an average of 38.1 hours per week.
When one deducts vacation leave and sick leave one is left with an average of 36.5 hours per week.
Males tend to work longer hours than females with 39.7 hours per week.
Only 7.2 per cent of Maltese workers perform overtime and 6.3 per cent are paid for working extra hours. Within this limited category, the average number of overtime hours per week is 9.7 hours.
But only 3.1 per cent of Maltese workers work more than 10 hours of overtime per week.
These statistics also reveal that the Maltese labour market lacks in flexibility.
In fact nearly three quarters of Maltese workers have a fixed start and end to their working day.
On the other hand the Labour Force Survey also shows that Sunday is no longer the cherished day of rest for 28.8 per cent of the Maltese work force. Slightly more than half of Maltese workers work on Saturdays.