The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Employment relations department received 6,000 calls, emails in last 3 weeks – Carmelo Abela

Albert Galea Wednesday, 1 April 2020, 16:51 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Department of Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER) has received some 6,000 calls and emails since the first case of Covid-19 was registered in Malta, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela said.

Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday, Abela explained that the calls and emails, which include complaints and general enquiries, namely focused on the subjects of salaries, rate of pay, forced leave, and quarantine leave.

The last week had seen the number of telephone calls that the department receives increase threefold to almost 300 per day, and noted that the DIER’s 16 members of staff are working round the clock to ensure that all of them are handled professionally.

Abela announced the creation of two new helplines which will be for enquiries or complaints about working conditions.  The number 1575 is in place for workers, while the number 1576 is for employers.  

Abela noted that a page listing the most frequently asked questions had also been set up on the DIER’s website, and that its email address – [email protected] – remains active.

Abela gave a run-down of the government’s financial measures – wherein the government will contribute 800 per month to an employee’s salary, while the employer will, if the employee’s salary does not exceed 1,200 per month, top up the rest so that the worker receives their full salary.  If the worker’s salary exceeds €1,200 per month, then the employer is obliged to put forth a minimum of €400 over and above the €800 being contributed by the government.

He explained that the government will pay its contribution directly to the employer who then has the responsibility to top that figure up and pay it in full to the employee.

He appealed to workers to contact the DIER if they see anything untoward in the amount of salary that they are receiving.  Abela said that all complaints will be investigated by the DIER.

He also noted that, legally, employers must advise and seek the permission of the DIER if they are implementing changes, such as a movement from a five-day-week to a four-day-week, in working conditions.  They must also seek permission from the DIER if they cannot pay the minimum stipulated amount of wage contribution along with what the government is paying to each employee.

DIER Director General Diane Vella Muscat also appealed to employers to contact the department when making change and not “taking the law in their own hands”.

Asked by this newsroom whether, given the increase in the amount of work being faced by the department, there was the desire to increase the human resources available to the DIER, Abela said that this was always the desire even before this crisis emerged.

He said that he would like to see an increase in the department’s enforcement section in particular, so that the department can be more proactive and not simply reactive to reports.

He once again appealed for those who are seeing some break the rules to submit reports to the DIER accordingly.

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