For the second year running, Workers’ Day is being commemorated in extraordinary circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mass celebrations and events cannot be held nor activities such as the UĦM Voice of the Workers conference which featured the participation of members, officials and distinguished guests.

UHM salutes all those who have been at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic during this year, not only those in the health sector but also those who played a crucial part to render essential services. The vaccination programme and the low number of cases registered in recent weeks bode well for the future. At times it seems like a deja-vu   as this time last year victory had been pronounced prematurely. We hope that in a year’s time the pandemic would be behind us.

On this occasion it is worth taking stock of the general situation. How does the standard of living compare to that of a year ago? What were the changes in working conditions? What job opportunities is the Maltese economy generating? What are the biggest challenges? What is the current level of social dialogue?

Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a wide-ranging negative impact. It dealt a blow to the financial income of many whose standard of living dropped. While the wage supplement scheme was crucial, UHM is disappointed that some employers did not keep their word as they did not spend a single cent to top-up the €800 issued by the Government every month. This scheme was supposed to be a compromise to alleviate the costs to the affected businesses and not a complete abdication by some employers.

On Workers’ Day, UHM also expresses solidarity with those employee who are still being discriminated against by being paid less than their colleagues despite doing the exact same work. If the Government really wants to catch the bull by the horns, it must lead by example and refrain from adopting certain practices that fuel these injustices. Certain outsourcing contracts make no sense other than for the Government to circumvent the public sector recruitment restrictions while offering inadequate  conditions.

UHM hopes that the drafting up a new labour market policy will be an opportunity to address certain shortcomings while not repeating certain mistakes. Job creation is always welcome, but we cannot look only at numbers. Maltese families expect that Government should not be the one to put downward pressure on wages by promoting the country as a cheap labour economy. Recent statistics highlighting a situation whereby 40% of Malta’s wealth belongs to just 5% of the population should be an eye opener to the Government in order to prevent the gap between the poor and the rich to keep growing. The ultimate goal should always be a fair distribution of wealth. Such objective is the greatest gift a worker can receive rather than the political rhetoric of a looming general election. Talk is cheap.