The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

Updated: Legal notices suspended after employer bodies threaten to stop attending ERB meetings

Tuesday, 21 August 2018, 15:12 Last update: about 4 months ago

Government has suspended a number of recently published legal notices dealing with working conditions, after employer unions raised significant concerns over them.

The four employer organisations - namely the GRTU, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Malta Employers Association and Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association - yesterday said they were dismayed by the recent "introduction by stealth" of four legal notices related to industrial and employment relations.

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In a statement, the employer bodies said these legal notices were introduced without the knowledge of and any form of consultation with employer bodies on the eve of 'Santa Marija' - the 14th August, a period commonly associated with shutdowns. The four organisations said they were to stop attending any future Employment Relations Board (ERB) meetings until the situation is rectified.

Government, in a statement following this announcement, said that the legal notices were published after discussions with the social partners in the Industrial Relations Board, but said that as a sign of goodwill given the current discussions, the Department of work and Industrial Relations was going to suspend the notices. Government said it was going to place them on the discussion table between government and the social partners regarding other improvements for working conditions which were promised in the electoral manifesto.

In their statement earlier in the day, the four employer organisations lamented that there had been a "significant departure from the spirit of healthy social dialogue which existed so far at the ERB.

"In fact, these four legal notices were never discussed at ERB, a board which was established in the role to advise the Minister concerned on any matter related to conditions of employment, a practice that so far was always observed."

The recently introduced Legal Notices deal with amendments to the protection of employment in the case of business transfers, temporary agency workers and new regulations on itemised payslips and annual leave.

The employer social partners said they feel that "without the necessary consultation, the four Legal Notices are going to give rise to severe disruptions in the labour market.

"For this reason, the four organisations are officially requesting the government to put these four legal notices on hold until they are brought forward for discussion at ERB level subject to any amendments which will be proposed during this period.

"Only then would the four organisations return to the ERB discussion table."

The government seems to have accepted this demand.

The employer representative bodies argued that, "This procedure should have been followed in the first place and the employer bodies are surprised that in spite of their numerous attempts to create a balanced environment for social dialogue in the country, the authorities have decided to do away with consulting the main stakeholders represented on this Board."

The four organisations are also questioning the purpose of having a body like ERB in the first place, "if normal procedure is not being followed and the authorities are introducing legal notices without prior consultation".

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