11 September

New Proposals For Work Conditions Regulations

 

GWU-Youths spoke to Josef Bugeja, General Workers’ Union Secretary General, to learn more about the new proposals and how they can become laws.

Image: Josef Bugeja with (from left to right) Luana Cauchi, Samantha Mifsud and Jasmine Zahra, the GWU-Youths members who conducted the interview.

In August the Equality Ministry introduced new work condition regulations. However, they were suspended just days after coming into effect due to the pressure from employers’ associations—The Chamber of SMEs (GRTU), the Chamber of Commerce, the Malta Employers Association and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. GWU-Youth spoke to General Workers’ Union Secretary General Josef Bugeja to learn more about the proposed regulations and how they can be enacted.

This interview is available in Maltese and English.

GWU-Youth: X’inhuma l-erba’ avviżi legali ġodda li ħolqu l-kontroversja?

Josef Bugeja: Dawn l-erba’ liġijiet ġew diskussi matul diversi perijodi, eżempju waħda ġiet diskussa fl-2014, waħda fl-2016 u oħra fl-2018, u daħlu kollha f’daqqa fl-10 ta’ Awissu.

Waħda minnhom dwar l-Annual Leave hija dwar kif inti tkun tista’ tuża’ il-leave tas-sena ta’ qabel li ma stajtx tutilizzah. Barra min hekk, kull impjegat huwa intitolat 192 -il siegħa leave fis- sena u min ma kellux ftehim kollettiv, ħafna drabi, l-imgħallem tiegħu kien jgħidlu li ma jistax jieħu leave. L-imgħallem ma japprovahilux u s-sena ta’ wara, jgħidlu li l-leave mitluf u ma jistax jieħdu.

Dwar it-Temporary Agency kienu qed jindirizzaw lakuni li qed jinħolqu bħalissa. Meta saret il-liġi ta’ Temporary Agency kienet li jekk hemm mara ħarġet bil-leave tal-maternita’ kien hemm min ħadem minfloka. Kull xogħol għandu valur, u dak il-valur għandu ħlas u l-ħlas jieħdu kulħadd min jagħmel dak ix-xogħol. Il-liġi tat-2003 tgħid li ‘’equal pay of equal job of equal value is with the same employer’’.

Transfer of Business hi li jekk ikollok sitwazzjoni fejn ikun hemm kumpanija waħda, tilfet l-offerta’ tagħha, u flok il-ħaddiema jgħaddu minn kumpanija A għall-B, jista’ jkun li A u B jingħaqdu flimkien u jsir C.

Dwar il-Pejslip Dettaljata, l-pejslip ikun fija id-dettalji kollha ta’ kemm tħallast, għaliex tħallast, xini r-rata’ basika tiegħak, kif tħallast, jekk kellekx overtime bis-sija/sija u nofs, jew bis-sija/sagħtejn, xi ħlasijiet kien hemm ta’ taxxa u assigurazzjoni nazzjonali, x’ħadt leave u x’fadallek, x’ħadt sick leave u x’fadallek. Affarijiet li f’dawn il-postijiet jeżistu, iżda fejn m’humiex trejd unjiniżd ma kinux jeżistu.

X’ħa jiġġwadanja l-impjegat min dan?

L-obbligu tal-employer huwa li japprova l-leave tal-ħaddiem tiegħu iżda m’għandu l-ebda dritt li meta jwaqqaf l-impjegat milli jieħu l-leave dan jintilef. Jekk jsir dan għandhom jittieħdu ażżjonijiet u l-employer jinbidel minnufih. Dan għandu jkun ta’ gwadan għal-impjegat għaliex jekk il-leave ma jiġix meħud kollu f’dik is-sena, l-leave jiġi miżjud mas-sena ta’ wara.

Waħda mill-erbgħa liġijiet hija l-Annual Leave li fiha inattaw mittejn (200) siegħa minflokk mija tnejn u diesgħin (192) -il siegħa leave, fejn żdiedu minħabba l-vaganzi pubbliċi.

Il-General Workers Union qabżet għall-ħaddiem biex issir l-ħtieġa li l-ħaddiem fil-pejslip jitnizzlu d-dettalji u l-informazzjoni kollha meħtieġa li tinkludi l-paga, ir-rata bażika tiegħu, overtime, sick leave, overtime, national insurance u kemm titieħed taxxa.

Min iħaddem x’livell ta’ poter għandu?

Illum -il ġurnata qed ngħixu f’soċjeta’ kbira b’ ħafna organizazjonijiet b’vuċijiet differenti. In-natura tal-kumpanija hija l-profit, pero’ bi żmien daħlu t-trejd unjins, fejn dawn jipruvaw isibu kompromes bejn l-impjegat u l-ħaddiem biex b’hekk it-tnejn jigwadanjaw. Hawn ħafna nuqqas ta’ ħaddiema għax-xogħol li hawn, allura l-ħaddiema llum ġew aktar importanti minn qabel.

Ma jistax ikun li min iħaddem u dawk li jħaddmu, isabtu saqajhom għax ma jaqblux ma xi ħaġa , imma meta jkunu fi kriżi jiġu għal għajnuna u meta jkun qed jagħmel profit ma jagħtix każ u jwarrab il-ħaddiem. Hemm bżonn ta’ equal rights kemm bejn min iħaddem u kemm bejn l-impjegat.

X’inhu l-impatt li dan għandu fuq iż-żgħażagħ li huma ħaddiema?

Bħalissa ż-żagħżugħ qed jesperjenza din is-sitwazzjoni rigward dawn il-liġijiet. Fil-futur, il-ħaddiema żgħażagħ ħa jkollhom il-pejslip u kulħadd ħa jkun jaf li l-leave tas-sena ta’ qabel mhux ser jintilef iżda ħa jkun approvat għas-sena ta’ wara. Huwa importanti li ż-żgħażagħ t’issa, dawn l-affarijiet jfhemuhom ‘il ta’ warajhom għaliex huma mhux ser ikunu esperjenzawhom. Bħala kundizzjonijiet iż-żgħażagħ tal-futur ser ikunu ħafna aħjar u għalhekk irridu nagħallmuhom japprezzaw l-istorja ta’ kif waslu għandhom dawn id-drittijiet. Jekk dawn il-liġijiet jgħaddu ser ikunu ta’ rebħa għaż-żgħażagħ tal-lum u t’għada.

Kif jistgħu il-ħaddiema jikkonvinċu lil Gvern biex jappoġja l-interessi tagħhom?

Il-Gvern għandu jsib bilanċ bejn l-emplojers u l-ħaddiema fejn jara li huwa tajjeb ukoll għal-industrija. Dan joħloq bilanċ permezz ta’ diskussjonijiet u jara dak li huwa ġust għat-tnejn bħal pejslip fejn ġiet ikattoriżata għal benefiċċju tal-ħaddiem.

Bilanċ ieħor li huwa favur l-ħaddiema huwa li f’public holidays li jaqaw s-Sibt jew l-Ħadd ma jibenifikawx minn ġurnata leave. Il-General Workers Unjin qabżet għal-ħaddiem fejn stqarret li għandha tiżdied ġurnata leave b’hekk il-Gvern sab bilanċ u żied ġurnata leave iżjed fis-sena mal-kumplament tal-leave.

Kif tista’ l-unjin telgħeb il-lobbying ta’ min iħaddem ħalli il-proposti jsiru liġijiet?

Tista’ tibda mil-lobbying sa kemm finalment bħala unjin tagħmel il-protesti. Hemm diversi rwoli ta’ trejd unjin bħal, tirrapreżenta l-individwu, tirrapreżenta grupp ta’ ħaddiema, tgħin biex itejbu l-kundizzjonijiet tal-ħaddiema u jsiru protesti fil-pajjiż biex tinbidel xi ħaġa. Issa dan jiddependi kemm wieħed irrid li jinbidlu xi affarijiet.

Importanti li jsiru diskusjonijiet biex jaraw kif se jsiru l-affarijiet aħjar. Importanti wkoll li dejjem timxi mal-ligi imma jekk int għandek dritt għal xi ħaga għandek titkellem u tilħaq kompromes.

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GWU-Youth: What are the new legal advices that created the controversy?

Josef Bugeja: These four proposals were discussed separately and for a long time: for example, one was discussed in 2014, another one—in 2016, and another—in 2018, but they were introduced together on 10th August 2018.

One of them is about Annual Leave and how you can use the leave of the past year that you couldn’t utilise. Every employee is allocated 192 hours of leave per year. Those outside of a collective agreement are frequently not allowed to take leave. The employer simply tells the employees that they can’t take leave, doesn’t approve it, and the year after the employees are told that the leave is missed and they can’t utilise it.

The second regulation is about the Temporary Agency. A woman on maternity leave is replaced by a temporary worker who will be doing her job. Every job has its own value and a certain pay rate. This rate would be given to the worker who is filling in for the one on maternity leave. The law of 2003 states that the pay for equal job of equal value should remain equal with the same employer.

When we talk about Transfer of Business, we mean that when a company A loses a tender, it then has to transfer workers to a company B. Or the companies A and B merge and become company C.

Finally, the other regulation is about receiving a detailed payslip. The payslip should include all the details: how much you got paid, what you got paid for, your hourly rate, the form of payment, whether you worked overtime that is between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes or between 1 and 2 hours, if any deductions of tax and to national insurance were made, how much leave have you have taken and how much you have remaining, how much sick leave you have taken and how much of it remains. These rules have already existed, but were not implemented in places which were not trade unionised.

What is the employee going to gain from this?

The obligation of the employer is to approve the leave of his workers; the employer has no right to keep the employee’s leave. If this happens, further actions will be taken and the employer will be changed as soon as possible. This should be a gain for the employee because the leave that was not taken during the year will be added to that of the following year.

One of the new four legal advice proposes to increase the Annual Leave up to 200 hours instead of 192 hours currently—to make up for the public holidays that coincide with the weekends.

The General Workers Union supports workers in their demand to receive a detailed payslip that states their pay, basic rate, overtime, sick leave and tax.

What level of power do the employers have?

Nowadays, we live in a society with a great many different organisations and different interests. The nature of a company is to make profit, but the trade unions seek to reach a compromise between the employer and the employee so that both sides can benefit.

Currently, there is a shortage of workers—the demand for workers on the labour market is much great than supply. That means that today’s situation is to workers’ advantage—much more than it was in the past.

It is unacceptable that whenever employers do not agree with something, they halt the discussions. When they are in crisis, they tend to approach the workers and their representatives, requesting assistance. However, when they are making profit, they do not care and ignore the workers.

What the impact does this situation have on working youths?

In the future, youth workers will certainly benefit from the right of having a payslip. The situation with the leave from the previous year will also be clear—the leave will not be lost, but added to that of the following year.

It is important that today’s youth workers inform the future generations of labourers about the struggle, since the latter will not be aware of it. The youths of tomorrow will have better working conditions and we must encourage them to appreciate the history of these laws. That is if these laws are enacted, they will be of great benefit to today’s and tomorrow’s youths.

How can employees convince the government to side with their interests?

The government should strike a balance between the employers and the workers to consider what’s best for the industry at large. Such a balance needs to be reached through discussions that would establish the fair middle ground, such as, for instance, itemised payslips.

Another move to achieve this fair middle ground, which benefits workers in particular, is to add one more day to employee’s leave if a public holiday falls on a weekend.

The General Workers Union stands for these proposals and encourages the government to find a balanced approach.

How can the union outweigh the employer’s lobby so that the proposed changes become laws?

You can start from lobbying and finish off as a union with protests. The roles of a trade union include representing individual workers as well as groups of workers. Our goal is to improve workers’ rights—that might induce protests, but this depends on how one wants to change things.

It is essential that the dialogue continues so that the rules and regulations are improved. It is also important that we reach compromise by following the laws on the one hand and speaking for your rights on the other.