Sociologist from Malta

Monday, August 04, 2008

Meeting the Unions

Today, a delegation of Alternattiva Demokratika made up of Arnold Cassola and myself met the leadership of the UHM. This was the second in a series of meetings with trade unions, following last Thursday's similar meeting with the leadership of the General Workers' Union.

In the meeting with the GWU, we discussed issues such as the inflation rate, the energy surcharge, the increase in jobs with bad working conditions and thestandard of living of pensioners. We expressed our solidarity with Shipyard workers who are feeling a sense of unease as regards their future. It is ironic that whilst Government is speaking about the contribution of ageing workers to society, the same government is aiming to dispose of suchworkers through retirement schemes.

AD believes that all Shipyard workers should be re-engaged in productive ways by both the public and private sectors, andretirement schemes should only be seen as a last resort in the absence of abetter alternative. Such workers can be involved in productive jobs concernedwith the creation of alternative energy sources or for technical work with local councils. The State also has an important role to play in the provision ofretraining schemes were necessary.

In the meeting with UHM, we discussed matters such as Malta's employment rate, which is the lowest in the EU, especially as regards women and ageing workers. In this regard, Government should ensure that work pays, thus encouraging people to enter the labour market whilst ensuring good job conditions, decent wages and a balance between work, family, leisure time and other commitments. Amongst other proposals, AD is for an increase in the minimum wage, introduction of tax credits, more accessible and affordable childcare centres and flexible hours in accordance with workers' needs. Besides, Government should do its utmost so that ageing workers are not disposed of but rather, involved in productive work which respects their dignity.

In both meetings, we appealed to the GWU and UHM to to help set up a Trades Unions' Council with other unions in order that workers' rights can be promoted through a collective movement. In both meetings we also highlighted the increase in precarious employment, resulting in jobs with low wages and bad conditions. This is especially the case amongst part-timers, workers on contract and casualised workers.

Greens and trade-unions have much in common and can offer sustainable proposals for Maltese society, merging economic, social and ecological factors.

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