The two main trade unions believe that while the government’s aid package was a step in the right direction, it was not enough to absorb the impact on workers.

The general secretaries of the General Workers’ Union and the UĦM Voice of the Workers said that although the aid package was aimed at addressing employers’ concerns, workers remained short-changed. 

Prime Minister Robert Abela unveiled the €1.8 billion package at a press conference on Wednesday evening. The package includes €700 million in tax deferrals, €900 million in loan guarantees, a €210 million injection to assist the economy, which includes €35 million to health authorities to fight COVID-19.

Employers will also to be given €350 for every employee on quarantine leave and there will be special measures to cover leave for families and the wage bill of businesses who have had to close because of the outbreak. 

GWU general secretary Josef Bugeja said the package contained a number of good measures but did not seem enough to address the job losses. 

“Some measures will certainly help in the circumstances but the situation will definitely lead to redundancies. The package is not enough. Certain measures such as the bank guarantees are good, but it all depends on how long this is going to take to pass,” Bugeja said. 

UĦM’s Josef Vella said the package left him with more questions than answers. He was more critical of the lack of consultation with unions, saying the package was designed to address concerns voiced by employers without giving enough weight to the burden workers were expected to carry. 

“The measures are not bad but we have doubts on how effective they will be. We would have expected the government to issue a legal notice to ban any redundancies or unpaid leave. Now is not the time for backroom dealings.

Employers and unions must sit around the table with the government to come up with a package that will benefit all,” Vella said. 

He continued: “We are all in the same boat so we cannot have a situation where employers and unions pull in different directions. We all stand to lose so it’s better if we address this together.”

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