Political parties are unveiling their respective manifestos for the March 26 general election. UHM Voice of the Workers has been putting forward its own proposals primarily focusing on the labour market, job creation, workers’ rights, the economy and conditions of employment.

The first consideration which needs to be made is the type of economy we are after. Can the country afford to keep going down the road of an economic model based solely on numbers, quantities and cheap labour? Or is it time to shift our focus and look at more value added sectors? Being the smallest EU member state with the largest population density, Malta is reaching saturation point. The huge population increase registered in the last decade, mainly through the importation of third country nationals for low-paid jobs is causing serious strains on the country’s infrastructure.  It is undeniable that this economic model has made housing more expensive, increased traffic and put more strain on the healthcare sector.

UHM Voice of the Workers firmly believes that Malta should move towards a knowledge-based economy so that economic growth is generated through more sustainable industries. Such model will also serve to lessen the dependency on cheap labour, create better paid jobs and hence improve the quality of life.

Another consideration is the need to revitalise sectors like agriculture and fisheries which unfortunately have been left neglected. At the same time, however, ambitious plans are being put forward to create green spaces in urban areas! Would not it make more sense to tackle this issue holistically rather than sporadically?

Precarious employment and workers’ exploitation is another issue on which much has been said and promised but very little done. Sadly, Malta still lags behind when it comes to occupational health and safety in sectors like the construction industry. Lives are being lost every so often, but it seems that such tragedies are being treated as unavoidable – which is not the case. However, the biggest perpetrator of precarious employment is the government. Instead of leading by example, the government is riding roughshod on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. This is being done through the outsourcing of core operations whereby employees on the contractor’s books are doing the same exact job as their government colleagues, at the same workplace, but being paid less and with inferior conditions. Some UHM members like bus drivers are still working 48 hours per week, while others are not being given the Sunday premium allowance.

These are some of the grievances which UHM has been bringing to the fore to political parties in a bid to address these injustices. Our call on political parties is to take the bull by the horns, not only by take some of these ideas on board, but more importantly to ensure that these are implemented.