UĦM Voice of the Workers has called for the creation of a “wage protection fund” as a safeguard for employees not paid their salaries due to administrative reasons beyond their control.

The proposal was made by UĦM CEO Josef Vella during a Workers’ Day conference organised today by the same union.

Mr Vella noted that the issue came to the fore recently when a group of employees working for a private firm contracted by Wasteserv did not receive their salary, after the issuing bank blocked all payments from the private firm’s account, due to a legal dispute. The company in question had been contracted by Wasteserv as part of an outsourcing agreement.

“It turned out that despite the employment regulations and laws in place, the union had a hard time seeking redress, having to chase the authorities including the Office of the Attorney General. It took a week for things to start moving,” he said.

READ: Workers left without their wages after bank blocks company payments

“Meanwhile, workers were being chased by the banks for defaulting on their loans and not having enough funds to honour standing orders,” the UĦM CEO said.

He added that authorities must take a proactive approach and try to create mechanisms which would be automatically triggered in such circumstances.

In view of this he suggested setting up a “wage protection fund” managed by a
court-appointed administrator who would act in consultation with management, unions and employees.

Precarious employment

In his address Mr Vella also spoke about precarious employment, saying that the starting point to address such abuse was to make it obligatory to have an employment contract whose conditions would be in line with the law.

The UĦM CEO also referred to the privatisation of three State hospitals, which are now being administered by US group Steward Health Care. He warned that the union would not accept having employees on government books being outnumbered by those engaged by the private operator.

“Such a practice is no coincidence, but a strategy to undermine unions and collective bargaining. If we do not act, collective agreements will be consigned to history in a few years’ time,” he said.

Mr Vella also referred to the ongoing controversy regarding IVF, saying it was of concern that politicians were treating such delicate subject in a very clinical manner.

He also levelled criticism for government’s plan to legalise prostitution, saying work was first and foremost about dignity not only making money.

“It seems that in a few years’ time we will be reaching the absurd situation of
negotiating a collective agreement for prostitutes,” he remarked.

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