Employers want four public holidays to be cut
The Malta Employers Association has called on the government to fulfill its aim of improving national competitiveness by reducing the annual number of public holidays by four days.
The association was reacting to the ruling of the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association that in its legislation regarding public holidays falling on weekends, the government had acted against the spirit of Convention No. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.
Malta has ratified both these conventions.
The association said there was no question that the government acted in good faith in seeking to increase productive working days with minimal impact on workers' earnings.
However this approach, though prudent, has been prone to a number of loopholes that has yielded a murky result, with the employers caught in the middle of different interpretations as to what the legislation actually means and also regarding its implementation, the MEA said.
The ILO report, it said, pointed out that even the General Workers' Union, as the complainant, did not question the government's right to repeal public holidays.
It was only the means used to achieve the objective of increasing productive days that was being criticised by the committee on the basis that it compromises the validity of collective agreements and precludes voluntary negotiations in the future about the right to recover national or public holidays falling on weekends.
As rightly stated in its case to the ILO, the government had compelling reasons of national economic interest that necessitated measures to address the urgent need to retain economic competitiveness and productivity.
Cutting the number of public holidays would be a more direct approach which would not be subject to interpretation, would respect the ILO conventions, and should also appease the union's concerns about the workers' right to collective bargaining, the MEA said.