Archive for Editorial
It feels as if the country’s mental wellbeing has been ignored throughout the pandemic. The public has experienced a traumatic event this year with little time to process it, whilst often enduring financial insecurity and hardship. Several adults are indeed struggling with depression. Young adults, women, key workers, the disabled and other vulnerable persons are among those being affected, as well as, those unable to meet unexpected costs. Also, low-income families are experiencing mental or physical health problems because of Coronavirus as they struggle to pay for food and utilities. Helping these people in the coming months will require substantial investiment in mental health services, services that according to Nationalist MP Mario Galea have been “butchered”. Moreover, if we are to tackle a mental health crisis, we must look at the bigger picture which includes insecurity, low-paid work, discrimination, isolation, changes in routine, overeating and drinking. We too often speak about mental health as if it is disconnected from the material conditions in which we live. However, our jobs, homes and health are linked to our mental wellbeing. If you’re a mother struggling to hold down a job while expected to do home schooling, it is easy to feel depressed. If you are a worker who has lost his job and is facing eviction, it is natural to be anxious. These conditions have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As the resurgence of the virus in Malta carries on, the negative impact on people’s mental health looks set to magnify. Furthermore, it transpires that mental health support has been reduced to rhetoric. To truly address this public health issue would require funding for all aspects of society: from tackling the isolation of vulnerable people to addressing the precarious and unequal labour market that means many families are unable to pay their bills. Prioritising mental health puts the wellbeing of people above profits. It establishes housing, food and healthcare as basic rights. Most of all, it demands genuine and substantial investiment for mental health services, not just empty words. As this country entered the second wave, and as the pandemic continues to affect people’s lives, the nation’s wellbeing is going to become ever more pressing. Government must do what is actually necessary to address Malta’s mental health crisis. It must take the bull by the horns and make the changes that enable people to have better lives.
During this pandemic, many healthcare workers are being pushed to their limits and beyond as they selflessly care for patients. Since cases of COVID-19 have increased constantly, hospital workers are consequently dealing with a huge influx of patients. The demand for swabbing at testing centres has increased, leaving frontliners in a terrible state of exhaustion. Some workers manning these testing centres, who even spoke to the media, stated that they are understaffed, unmotivated and were not paid for overtime work. To add insult to injury, frontliners were recently told to hurry up by people waiting in line to get tested! This is the empathy that they get! Voice of the Workers is aware of the huge workload that is being carried out by hospital workers. Hence, the public must cooperate especially with all frontliners in efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, and not to provoke or challenge them in any manner. Let us not deliberately challenge…
If we were to analyze the actions taken by government in the first and second waves of the pandemic, we would conclude that the decisions taken on the two were different from each other. One recalls the decisions announced by government in recent months which were described with respect to the medical advice provided by the Health Authorities. The population of these islands had obeyed the advice propagated by public health specialists. Hence, collective discipline prevailed. In the first wave of the pandemic, the government was commended, particlularly by the World Health Organisation (WHO), for keeping the number of cases low. Subsequently, when we laxed the active cases began to rise again. The rush to get the economy back on its feet exasperated the WHO’s warnings to countries not to let go of their controls. What happened? Our country had responded to the demands of entrepeneurs, people in business and hoteliers, thereby failing to listen to the advice of the health authorities. Consequently, we witnessed a lot of confusion in the way things were communicated and discipline quickly fell apart. Cases have accumulated rapidly. We were told to enjoy summer. Several people quickly took off their masks and had fun at parties and entertainment venues. This has led to an explosion of COVID-19 cases and the government has now reacted by announcing new measures. This is not the way how to address the second wave of the pandemic. Government is being more reactive to the situation than active and is not taking the situation seriously. The well-being of workers and the most vulnerable is at stake. What concrete precautions are being taken to keep these people safe? In addition, social distancing must still be maintained at all times and those who disobey must be punished. Enforcement must be strong, serious and consistent whilst there should be no exceptions for violators. Let us be mature and use our common sense. Meanwhile, Voice of the Workers continues to urge the government to do more to control the virus before it has fatal effects on both the vulnerable and the country’s economy.
Our country needs to be led seriously because we are facing a dangerous situation whereby we shall witness an ‘explosion’ of Covid-19 cases. A marathon meeting, which lasted almost eight hours, between the social partners and the Prime Minister on Thursday 6th August, did not lead to the complete cancellation of mass activities. Despite the various concerns raised by representatives of the social partners, Government does not want to change its course but wants to resume with public events (albeit with a limited number of attendees) in the midst of a pandemic. Other European countries have ordered the cessation of mass events. On the contrary, the Maltese Government does not want to give in to the pressure being put on it by those who have the welfare of the Maltese at heart. Government, instead, wants to keep our country open to foreigners. Voice of the Workers stresses that in order to have a healthy economy we need a healthy population. The government is there to safeguard the people’s health. It is useless to open up the economy and facilitate business, when Coronavirus cases are on the rise. It seems that government has long forgotten that restrictions ordered by itself had forced many Maltese to stay indoors. Now it has to do away with the sacrifices made by all because of decisions that benefit those who want to profit swiftly to the detriment of the rest of the population. Meanwhile, this portal appeals to the public to continue following the advice and appeals provided by the health authorities. We all have to be in control of ourselves and be responsbible to where we are going. It is also important for vulnerable people to be given continuous protection and whoever goes outdoors must pay attention to himself/herself and to others. Voice of the Workers recalls that Malta has been fighting the pandemic for five months and unfortunately, when we look back, we see that government has not learned anything. Instead it is taking rash decisions without heeding to the concerns pertaining to the health of the Maltese population. (This editorial was submitted on Friday 7th August and may have been superseded by events)
COVID-19 has affected our personal lives and places of work. Organisations have never experienced such rapid changes to what they do and how they function, with remote working and social distancing becoming the new normal. However, the Coronavirus was not the only factor that affected our work practices. New technologies have been influencing the world of work for quite some time. Some jobs will surely be affected by automation. We already know, for instance, that some routine tasks in low-skilled jobs are being automated. Moreover, various technologies out there are waiting to be adopted. To mention just a few, let us think of artificial intelligence and drone technology. Are we truly prepared for more technological tools? How will new technology impinge on the workforce? Given, the fast-changing scenario, several technical skills will become obsolete. COVID-19 showed us how fast we have to adapt. Several workers were suddenly working remotely, leading and managing teams virtually, relying on video conferencing for collaboration and meetings, amongst other tasks. Investing in our personal development and growth is critical. The more we upskill and reskill, the more valuable we are in the eyes of our current and future employers – the more we are for future changes in our career progression. UHM Voice of the Workers is in continuous discussion with the relevant stakeholders in order to establish how technology could help places of work be more flexible and to enable workers to work remotely. Besides, with the rise of technology the human element will become important. We will need to draw more on soft skills like creativity, adaptability and critical thinking. All in all, we have to identify any gaps in our skills that are likely to prevent us from achieving future goals, stay focused, be curious and just keep on learning.