Healthcare workers employed by Steward Health Care are missing out on thousands of euros per year, despite doing the same job as their fellow colleagues employed by the Health Ministry.

It transpires that in some cases the take-home pay of these employees was €3,350 lower when compared with similar grades in the public sector. The discrepancy is even more pronounced when going back to 2016 when Vitals entered the scene. In this case, employees of this operator received up to €6,800 less over four years, despite doing the same exact work of their colleagues on the government books.

These shocking figures emerged on the strength of an audit carried out by UHM Voice of the Workers following complaints by its members who are seeking redress for this form of workplace discrimination.

Shirley*, a physiotherapist and Monica* who is an occupational therapist are two healthcare workers at Karin Grech Hospital who are bearing the brunt of this issue. The advent of Covid-19 only served to rub salt into the wound. While they have been fighting shoulder to shoulder against this pandemic for months, they are not getting the same treatment as other front liners.

“Doing the same exact job as others, if not even more, while knowing that you are getting paid less is very demoralising,” Shirley remarked.

“Apart from the payment, our conditions of works are also inferior when it comes to degree allowances and the possibility to carry on unused vacation leave from the previous year,” Monica pointed out.

Complaints have also been levelled with respect to family friendly measures whereby this is completely in management’s discretion without any framework agreement.

“When I joined Vitals we had been made certain promises by the company management but unfortunately the situation seems to be getting worse after Steward took over in 2018,” Shirley remarked.

“Our complaints are falling on deaf ears and the company’s attitude is conveying the message that our only option is either to accept the situation or leave,” Monica added.

The issue has been compounded by the fact that the agreement regulating the concession given to Vitals by the government has never been entirely published, Consequently, there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to the conditions of work.

UHM Voice of the Workers had been flagging the issue for months but for some reason the Health Ministry has turned a blind eye. Such approach jars with government’s own mantra of wanting to enforce the principle of equal pay for equal work. Moreover, it also contradicts government’s repeated pledged to fight precarious employment. UHM has long been saying that if this fight is to be taken seriously, government should be leading by example rather than setting a dangerous precedent itself.

*Names have been changed to safeguard the identity of these employees