The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

Most unions, associations in favour of keeping summer time all year round

Albert Galea Thursday, 21 March 2019, 07:53 Last update: about 4 months ago

A number of unions and associations are in favour of Malta permanently keeping summer time when the bi-annual seasonal clock change is discontinued come 2021.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee voted to abolish the seasonal clock change, leaving it up to member states to choose between summer time and winter time.

Broadly speaking, the difference between the two is merely the shifting of an hour.  However, more specifically, the hour shift would affect the time in which daylight begins and ends; summer time would see daylight begin and end later, whilst winter time would see daylight begin and end earlier.

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The Malta Independent contacted a number of entities, asking each which option from summer time and winter time they would prefer to see Malta retain, and whether they had any recommendations to the government on the subject.

The General Workers Union said they had opted in favour of keeping the summer and noted that they had approached the issue on two levels; work and personal view.

On the first level, the GWU said that they had raised concerns about the aviation, financial and maritime sectors and how they would be affected by the change, whilst also mentioning the issue of how this directive will be implemented since all EU member states need to agree to this change in order to maintain harmonisation.

On the second level, the GWU looked at how such a change could impact a person, noting that studies had indicated that the summer-time arrangement could generate positive effects linked to more outdoor activities.

On the other hand, the union noted, there are chronobiologic research findings that suggest that the effect on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought.

UĦM Voice of the Workers meanwhile was less committal on which of the two choices they would prefer, instead noting that they believe that “the daylight saving time is something we have all got used to and its abolition could therefore affect established work practices and the way we spend our leisure time”.

They recommended that, assuming the abolition does indeed go ahead, the competent authorities carry out an assessment on how the abolition could impact people's lives including work practices and leisure time.

“The overall objective should be to ensure a smooth transition and adjustment to the abolition of daylight savings”, the UHM said.  

Marcel Mizzi from The Malta Chamber of SMEs meanwhile explained that they had carried out extensive research into the subject and found that their members found it advantageous to retain summer time perpetually.

This was due to the fact that it could be if there is daylight for longer, this could result in changes in retain patterns which would see more people going out after work and spending money, he said.

This being said, research into the subject carried out by the GRTU found that there may be some issues involved with the hour change, with Mizzi citing research conducted by Pennsylvania State University in 2012 which found that “cyber loafing” – wherein employees waste time on the internet – could increase after the time changes.

He noted however that the change was after all just an hour, meaning it is not expected to be extremely significant.

Joe Farrugia from the Malta Employer’s Association said that their preference was that the summer time should be retained because the longer day gives more leisure time to people after work.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry have made their position clear on this in the past, saying that a survey that they had carried out reflected that 75% of businesses had preferred to retain summer time throughout the entire year.

“Longer days should lead to a more motivated work-force, which translates into more business activity, especially amongst retail, hospitality and restaurant businesses,” the representative business body asserted, quoting the previous report.

Moreover, respondents also noted the psychological benefits the proposal would have on the Maltese workforce, which would lead to greater productivity. “Longer days also mean that workers will enjoy more daylight after their respective work shifts,” the Malta Chamber said, going on to conclude that this would “lead to a wider feel-good factor amongst employees.”

The teaching profession may be another one which is affected by the choice between winter and summer time, given that one could lead to teachers and students leaving their homes for school in the dark.

The Malta Union of Teachers responded to this newsroom saying that while they had chosen not to take an official stand on the matter, they would be following Forum Union Maltin, which it forms part of.

For.U.M. – which is a confederation of 11 unions – in this case has stated that the way forward needs to take into account Malta’s geographical position; commercial ties with neighbours and must make sure that it does not negatively impact communication systems.

The Union of Professional Educators meanwhile has disagreed with the abolishment, saying that both summer and winter time should remain as they are.

“It is evident that current time changes benefit our health and well-being. A 2014 study of 23,000 children in nine countries suggested that their activity levels were 15-20% higher on summer days”, the union said.

“It's also a fact that today’s families are struggling for family time, and so having early evenings will continue eroding away the social fabric of our families” the union said before adding that “such a change in time would also make it harder for students to work at school in the early mornings, thus creating a new challenge for all Educators”.

“Although the union is aware that the State is observing closely other neighbouring trading countries as to minimise the economic impact on the country, one must keep in mind that Malta’s geographical location is also important to consider, since we have different climate cycles from that of main land Europe”, the union said.

 

 

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