Select categories of government employees are being denied the right to negotiate better conditions of work through a collective agreement by the union of their choice. Instead, government is resorting to a totalitarian practice whereby it negotiates an ‘agreement’ with workers’ representatives appointed by itself.

Genetic Counsellors are among government employees currently facing such ordeal at their place of work. Ironically, this is happening at a time when these professionals have gained more importance following the recent amendments to the IVF law which has legalised the use of pre-implantation genetic testing.

UHM has recently requested official recognition of these professionals, to kickstart talks for a new collective agreement. For some reason, the government refused the request but by the time of writing no feedback was received, nor a reason given for such denial.

The ordeal being faced by the genetic counsellors is similar to that which was experienced last year by psychotherapists. The latter too were denied the opportunity to seek recognition and start negotiating their own collective agreement.

What is even more worrying is that in situations like these there have been instances whereby government resorted to totalitarian practices. A case in point was that of employees within the ICT class in which government resorted to a bizarre practice of holding talks with employee representatives appointed by itself!

As part of this plan government starts off by creating nomenclatures and employment grades to suit its plan. Rather than verifying whether there might be a trade union which enjoys the support of the majority of workers, the government jumps straight away to the ‘negotiations’ with the government-appointed workers’ representatives. Needless to say that having representatives whose loyalty ultimately rests with their employer and not their colleagues cause does not bode well at all for industrial democracy.  

The absence of a trade union means no negotiations or collective bargaining are taking place. It is also important to point out that changing certain conditions of work alone, does not constitute a collective agreement in itself. UHM Voice of the Workers hopes that this practice is nibbed at the bud by the direct intervention of the newly-appointed principal permanent secretary Tony Sultana.

Such practice flies in the face of the government’s own general election manifesto whereby it had pledged to strengthen collective bargaining by introducing mandatory trade union membership. Unfortunately, instead of leading by example, Malta’s biggest employer is doing the complete opposite.