European Labour Authority executive director Cosmin Boiangiu was recently in Malta for talks with the government and various stakeholders including employers and unions who are part of the Employment Relations Board.

Announced in 2017 by Jean-Claude Juncker during the State of the Union address, this EU watchdog aims to ensure that EU rules on labour and mobility and social security coordination are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way. It also aims to make it easier for citizens and businesses to reap the benefits of the internal market.

In the words of Juncker “in a Union of equals, there can be no second class workers. Workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. This is why the Commission proposed new rules on posting workers. We should make sure that all EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in fair, simple and effective way by a new European inspection and enforcement body”. The ELA was eventually established in 2019 and is expected to reach its full operations capacity by 2024.

It was in this context that the ELA executive director visited Malta during which he held talks with various representatives at the Office of the Prime Minister where UHM Voice of the Workers was represented through its CEO Josef Vella. However, for this watchdog to truly rise to the occasion it needs to engage seriously with trade unions. Unfortunately, the recent visit was more tantamount to a pr exercise.

As a start UHM would be keen for the ELA to take a snapshot on the level of social dialogue in Malta. Is this authority fully aware that unions in Malta face the prospect of legal action and warrants of inhibitory injunctions each time they take industrial action? Such escalation is more often than not the only way forward as government is not interested to genuinely engage in talks, at times not even on a new collective agreement. 

There is also ample room for debate if the principle of equal pay for equal work. Such debate is of extreme relevance especially to the public sector whereby the government at times is outsourcing core services and responsibilities to third parties who offer conditions which are inferior to those of employees doing the exact same job at the same workplace. The health sector is a prime example.  

In view of this UHM is calling on ELA to conduct a fact-finding mission in Malta to gauge workers’ rights and the level of social dialogue Why not have an annual or biannual report highlighting strengths, weaknesses and trends affecting employment and social dialogue in Malta and every other Member State? UHM Voice of the Workers is raising these issues as the feeling on the ground at present is that this Authority is detached from the grassroots.  Such action plan would be the perfect platform to flag issues which are perfectly in line with the authority’s remit such as the right to equal pay for equal work had been mentioned by Juncker himself as one of the reasons behind the setting up of this regulator.