Entry of non-EU nationals into Malta’s employment market should be limited to highly-qualified workers, as too much emphasis on cheap labour will negatively impact wage levels, UĦM Voice of the Workers has warned.

“We are not advocating an overnight expulsion of low-income foreign workers but the implementation of the principle of ‘equal pay for jobs of equal value’,” UĦM CEO Josef Vella is insisting.

“No Maltese workers will accept to get paid at €4.33 per hour as that would be way below the minimum required for a decent living, but for a third country national this might sound like an attractive offer,” he added.

Mr Vella sounded this warning when the Times of Malta sought his reaction to a recent report by EU agency Eurofound from which it transpired that Malta had registered the lowest minimum wage increase among all member states. 

While in 2019 the rise in Malta was of just 1.9 per cent, in countries like Spain the rise was more than 10 times higher, at 22 per cent.  However, Malta’s minimum wage was still classified as being at medium level when compared to other EU countries.

In his reaction, the UĦM head warned that Malta’s economy could not sustain an influx of low-income foreign workers for the long term.

“While they might be contributing for pensions, you have to look at the wider picture such as the impact on the environment, transport, healthcare, housing and salary levels,” Mr Vella remarked.

He also pointed out that even though there were officially 4,000 workers on minimum wage, in reality the number was much higher due the influx of third country nationals.

As things stand Malta has the highest proportion of foreign workers in its labour market and this influx has taken place overnight rather than gradually, he said. 

Such trend will clearly impact the wage setting, Mr Vella added.

In view of this the UĦM is calling for the implementation of the second part of the 2017 minimum wage agreement, whereby the lowest pay rates across different sectors would be established in line with existing collective agreements.

The union is insisting that such model is already in place through the wage regulation orders.

“We could either opt for such model or else seek to find a compromise on one flat minimum wage rate,” Mr Vella said.

The UĦM is also calling for measures to encourage workers, even foreigners, to enrol in a trade union, saying this would serve as a deterrent against abuse.

Such move would also help for compensation levels across all levels to keep up with profits, Mr Vella added.