The Times Friday, 22nd February 2008
Michael Briguglio, PRO, Żminijietna - Voice of the Left, Valletta.
Work is one of the major issues in the upcoming general election, both as regards job creation, as well as with regard to work-related rights. Exploitation and illegal practices should be major concerns. The economic policy of a new government should result in growth, stability and equality. Job creation and wage levels are two important issues in this regard. Wages should increase, both directly, as is the need for an increase in the minimum wage, as well as indirectly, namely through progressive fiscal policy and subsidies on energy and housing. Fiscal policy which discriminates in favour of high-income earners at the expense of middle and low income earners is disagreeable.
It is important that Malta does not keep creating new jobs which are precarious. This includes part-time work which is carried out due to lack of better options for workers. Part-time work is constantly increasing in Malta, to such an extent that there are around 45,000 part-time workers, 25,000 of whom work only part-time. Around 11 per cent of work in Malta is on a part-time basis. Besides, around six per cent of workers are employed on temporary contracts. Such workers have large difficulties in various spheres of life such as obtaining bank loans.
Malta also needs serious laws and enforcement which guarantee the rights and job conditions of various categories of workers. Various workers such as part-timers, workers on contract, casual workers and workers who are forced to register as self-employed should benefit from the same rights as full-timers on a pro-rata basis. The same can be said as regards workers in the private sector when compared to public sector workers. Attention should also be given to particular groups of workers, including women, young workers and aging workers, who frequently tend to be more likely to face unequal treatment, though illegal.
A new government should also enhance industrial democracy, so that all workers would have the right to join a trade union and to carry out industrial action. The industrial tribunal should be available for all workers. The state should provide proper training facilities for different categories of workers in sectors which are facing problems. Such training should improve workers' skills and respect their dignity, and not impose practices which are alien to workers' experiences. Proper investment in health and safety measures is also required.
Last but not least, Żminijietna - Voice of the Left believes in the need for more public investment in areas of national importance, as well as the need for policies which encourage workers' cooperatives.