11 July 2007

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Malta Today



Part time blues

Last week’s revelations that the European Union is now actively considering the introduction of a law where workers who are employed for more than 8 hours per week will be eligible for a pro rata entitlement of leave and other benefits such as bonuses ahs sent warning signals to the business community which are not very rosy.
To reduce the threshold from 20 hours to 8 is a rather alarming prospect for all business owners and this decision will create an administrative nightmare that will only make the employment of part timers a much less palatable prospect for employers.
This development will have serious effects on our capacity to continue fighting unemployment as it is common knowledge that the part time sector has grown considerably in the past years and this has been one of the main driving forces behind the recent spectacular fall in our unemployment figures.
But such a law will certainly create consternation and much less stability for employers who will be considerably burdened with new administrative costs that will definitely have a serious effect on company expenses apart from bureaucratic procedures that are definitely not worth the hassle when your employee is working such a reduced number of hours.
One has to acknowledge that there have been cases where employees work just a few minutes less than the stipulated 20 hour margin currently in force so as to do away with paying bonuses and allowing leave and sick leave and that is certainly not correct. But by reducing the threshold to 8 hours, the whole system will be thrown into chaos and will create a situation where part time employment will definitely be viewed much more suspiciously if not with outright hostility and this will have a dire effect on our employment figures.
It will also affect our battle to get more women into the world of work as with one of the lowest female participation rates in the European Union, Malta needs to work hard to get its numbers up in this sector. This 8-hour week will only make matters worse.
The EU should not just apply blanket regulations to all countries regardless of size and system. Malta is not France or Germany and should be allowed some leeway in applying this directive if and when it comes into force. We also hope that the Maltese government will be pushing for some modifications to the directive that will better reflect the requirements of our economic setup.

Of oil, rigs and Bugibba

The tourism sector seems to bear the brunt of the government’s bad decisions with another spectacular farce taking place in St Paul’s Bay over the past days. This time, an enormous oil rig suddenly finds itself in this busy tourist zone, endangering and uglifying what already is an area that has suffered considerably over the past few years. It is utterly inconceivable that such a move should be made at the peak of the tourist season when this country is supposedly doing its utmost to recover from one of the worst years in tourism, which was 2006. The criticism by all tourism organizations was justified and appropriate with the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association going so far as to state that tourism seems to have disappeared from the government’s agenda. In a very bold step, the MHRA also called into question the workings of the much-vaunted Interministerial group, stating that this has failed miserably in its performance. Complete silence from the government’s end makes you wonder what this group is actually doing. Probably nothing at all.
Now we hear that the rig is being removed from the area in a few days time. But the damage has already been done. It is about time that someone takes responsibility for such a fracas. The country cannot afford any more botched decisions in the tourism sector. We have to stand up and be counted or else risk losing all.

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