Three main employers' associations are up in arms over the General Workers' Union suggestion to force workers to join a union - which was supported by the prime minister in Parliament - insisting that this would impinge on people's rights.
Joseph Muscat encouraged a discussion about the possibility of forcing workers to become part of a union.
In Parliament, he said the discussion should also debate whether all companies should be associated with an employers' organisation.
It is up to the organisations themselves to keep in tune with the needs of their target public
The Malta Employers’ Association, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association stressed that the decision to join a union or organisation should be left entirely up to the individual employee or company.
They insisted that the right to freedom of association is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation directives, and that freedom of association implies also the freedom to disassociate oneself from either a trade union or employer organisation.
Compulsory membership does not add to anyone’s rights. On the contrary, it diminishes individual freedom by removing the right not to form part of any organisation, they said in a joint statement.
The bodies agreed that there should not be any barrier to keep anyone from exercising the right to associate, but ultimately the decision rested with the individual as a free choice.
It is up to the organisations themselves to keep in tune with the needs of their target public in order to increase their membership.
They added that, according to the trade unions’ annual declarations to the Registrar of Trade Unions at the Department for Employment and Industrial Relations, Malta has among the highest rate of unionised employees in the EU.
This is a clear indication that employees were not hindered in any way from becoming trade union members if they saw value in such affiliation.
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