The Malta Independent 15 August 2018, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Public holidays on weekend - Labour’s promise

Saturday, 10 February 2018, 10:20 Last update: about 6 months ago

In its electoral programme for 2017, the Labour Party pledged to give extra vacation leave for national and public holidays falling on a weekend, such as today, the feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck.

The practice was already in place for many years, until the Nationalist administration removed it in 2005, saying that extra working days would have led to an injection to the economy.

Labour now intends to bring it back. But it knows that this will not come easy, as the employers are opposing the suggestion. “The subject is closed,” they had said when the subject came up a few months ago.

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But, for Labour and also for the unions, the subject is wide open. As a first step in this direction, the government increased the number of vacation days from 24 to 25 for 2018. In his budget speech last October, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna specifically linked the two issues. “One of the main proposals in the PL election programme was to give extra holidays to make up for feasts falling on the weekend,” he had said. “We will start implementing this proposal by adding an extra day of leave (for 2018).”

There will be four holidays falling on weekend this year, and so technically speaking workers will be getting only one extra day instead of four. But it is evident the Labour is determined to stick to its word. In a clear message, the Labour Party recently announced that workers on its payroll will be getting four extra days of leave this year. “If we can do it as a party that relies on donations and so much voluntary work, so can companies benefiting from a strong economy,” PL CEO Randolph Debattista said.

The problem is that employers will not make it easy. They know that extra holidays will result in extra costs or loss of production, or both. And their argument will be what it has always been – that with 14 national holidays, Maltese workers already enjoy an average of more than one holiday per month. Adding the 24, now 25, days of vacation leave brings the total of days paid for by employers with nothing in return from the workers to 38 (now 39) – which would make it nearly eight weeks of paid leave.

On the other hand, unions are all in favour of the government’s idea. For them, extra days of vacation would automatically mean that workers are enjoying better conditions. Unions are in synch with the government when it says that, once the economy is doing so well and workers are contributing so much to the overall wellbeing of the country, they should be getting something back. The argument of balancing work with free time comes up too.

Not much has been discussed, at least in public, since the budget speech. The government seems to be concentrating on other issues at the moment. But the subject will be brought up again, if Labour is to keep its promise.

 

 

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