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FOR.U.M warns against not raising the minimum wage

"The FOR.U.M group of trade unions has expressed concern over reports that employers and some trade unions agree about not raising the minimum wage.

The Times reported yesterday that employers and unions backed a pledge by Labour leader Joseph Muscat not to raise the minimum wage but instead take other measures to address related problems, including up-skilling and increasing employability while reducing utility tariffs.

General Workers' Union general secretary Tony Zarb, whose union proposed a revision of the minimum wage in its pre-budget document, said any measure that improves the standing of those earning the minimum wage was acceptable to the union.

"The GWU agrees with anything which would improve the position of those who earn the minimum wage, such as the promise to reduce the water and electricity bills that are crucifying everyone, especially low-income workers," he said.

The Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin said it favoured more measures to make pay last, rather than impose new mechanisms that could distort the labour market.

General secretary Josef Vella said the union would like any salary raises to come from increased productivity rather than by raising salaries artificially.

Malta Employers' Association director general Joe Farrugia said the association wanted a minimum wage that was enough to sustain people but not drive them out of a job.

"We want any government to invest in improving their skills so they can move on and improve their working conditions and their wage.

But FOR.U.M said this morning it seriously begs to differ on this matter.

It recalled that a Caritas study last March has found 6,316 people could not afford the basic necessities for a decent living and that low income families were struggling to survive.

Caritas had proposed that the minimum wage should go u from €158.11 per week to €180 per week.

"Whereas FOR.U.M. agrees with the general up-skilling of workers, increased employment and a reduction in the Water and Electricity tariffs, this would definitely not solve the inevitable.

"Malta would still have workers on the minimum wage and the present €158 Euros weekly only means a rougher time for these workers. It is also pertinent to point out that in Malta there are skilled or semi- skilled workers paid on the minimum wage," FOR.U.M said.

It agreed with the MEA Director General that workers should at least have a minimum wage that is enough to sustain people but not drive them out of work.

"FOR.U.M. disagrees with those who state that an increase in the minimum wage could result in job losses. We have already and repeatedly heard this same argument being brought forward by these same sources in connection with the Cost of Living Adjustment and every time workers are given an increase in their salaries following a Collective Agreement."

The group called for talks among all social partners and other entities on the matter.

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