Employer associations welcomed a new set of measures to help businesses announced by Prime Minister Robert Abela on Tuesday evening.
Through the new measures, the government is substantially raising aid to businesses hit by the COVID-19 slowdown.
Addressing a news conference flanked by the social partners, Abela said a historic pact that defined the greatness of the Maltese people in unprecedented circumstances had been reached.
What did the employer organisations say?
The Malta Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The chamber said it was satisfied with the outcome of the consultation process as the prime minister’s announcement largely reflected its suggestions.
It said it would follow the situation closely and keep an open channel of communication with the government, as the situation developed further, possibly necessitating further adaptation.
It lauded the government’s disposition for dialogue which allowed for a successful outcome to materialise.
“The revised measures are being welcomed within the economic context, and as matters stand today. They appropriately address the urgent surgical needs of the hardest-hit sectors.”
It said it was mindful of the potential needs of another 100,000 workers elsewhere in the private sector for whom support might eventually also be required.
The chamber said it was among the main proponents in the consultation process for the establishment of a standard minimum benchmark contribution by the employer to eliminate misinterpretation.
It said it would be monitoring the performance of all economic sectors, particularly because of the secondary effects of the crisis which could hit eventually hit new sectors.
Manufacturing was of particular interest since, in every economic crisis, it was called upon to act as a pillar on which the remainder of the economy can rest.
The Malta Chamber of SMEs
The Malta Chamber of SMEs welcomed the positive response to the critical issues that had been raised and the acceptance of its proposals for a number of sectors.
It said it would keep voicing its concerns in representations with the government on the sectors that still needed support.
It had insisted with the prime minister that the unemployment benefit should be a basis of an employment benefit across the absolute majority of sectors.
The majority of sectors had suffered a close to complete drop in business overnight. While a number of these sectors had been asked to close their doors, others were still allowed to open with business levels standing at close to none.
The measures announced on Tuesday should give the necessary lifeline for the coming months for businesses that were desperately in need and would be celebrating the opportunity to be able to retain their workforce. The details of the implementation of such a scheme would be essential to ensure that this opportunity would be as accessible as possible.
However, there were other sectors and individuals that needed help and, as an organisation, it would continue voicing their concerns and making sure that help reached them.
“This because we are aware of the real needs of industry and the importance of keeping businesses functioning to be able to reinvent themselves and be ready to hit the ground running when the economy starts going back to normal.”
The chamber said it was working on other important measures that were important to sustain business in this delicate time.
“We need greater support from all the banks through general moratoria for both businesses and individuals and revision of interest rates. Other measures include tackling problems associated with rents and other costs part of most businesses’ running costs.”
Gozo Business Chamber, Gozo Tourism Association
In a joint statement, the Gozo Business Chamber and the Gozo Tourism Association welcomed the measures and noted that they took into consideration Gozo’s special circumstances.
They said they would continue to work with the government and other stakeholders to continue to monitor the situation at a local and national level so that the financial incentives package would continue to address this situation, which was constantly evolving.
Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said it believed the new measures would help the tourism and hospitality sector weather the storm.
MHRA President Tony Zahra said the association was satisfied that its calls for a review had been heard and that the government had been willing to go back to the drawing board to ensure the welfare of the economy.
The announced measures, he said, were the result of long hours of mediation and lobbying with all stakeholders and, above all, a sense of goodwill by all parties involved.
“In such telling times we all must be united and use our collective knowledge, experience and efforts towards one common enemy, called COVID-19. What we are living today is an extraordinary situation but must keep in mind that is a temporary one which definitely will leave a sour mark on all of us but there is future to look forward at which gradually will bring us back to the prosperous years which we have been used to for the past years,” he said.
Association of Catering Establishments
The Association of Catering Establishments said the measures will ensure give employers and employees the necessary peace of mind.
It said it had been working hard to safeguard jobs over the past weeks and had managed this due to the collaboration of its members.
The situation had to be continuously monitored as this could be a long journey and everyone had to work together. It said it would keep in constant dialogue with the government.
It was also working hand in hand with its members to find alternative sources of revenue and plan a steady recovery when the spread of the virus is controlled.
Malta Employers' Association
The Malta Employers’ Association said that although the boost in the latest measures addressed particular sectors of the economy, this was necessary since not all sectors had been affected to the same extent, with tourism and related sectors being at a standstill.
It appealed for continuous social dialogue so that there would be sufficient manoeuvrability to re-design the assistance package as necessary to reflect continuous changing circumstances in different sectors.
The association said it would remain committed to provide constant support for its members and interact with the other social partners to have the best outcomes possible in these dire times.
It would continue to urge employers to adopt strategies of job retention to keep redundancies to a minimum.
And what about the unions?
General Workers' Union
The General Workers Union said the package should give hope and confidence in the future, which had to be built on employment.
The incentives now being given should guarantee a minimum income to those working in the sectors that were most affected, including the hospitality sector, retail and aviation.
The union understood and agreed that the government should be careful to ensure that any incentive given was sustainable and would not lead the country into financial problems and recession, which would have ugly consequences on the whole country, especially the most vulnerable.
The social pact reached was the fruit of continuous dialogue between unions, the government and employers and it was clear proof that solutions could be found to this temporary crisis when working together.
It was a positive step but definitely not the final one.
The GWU said it was going to be vigilant to ensure that no employer abused employees and took advantage of the situation. It was also working to see that the impact of the crisis was spread among everyone.