Employers call on government to stop engaging non-critical workers before general election

Last Updated on Tuesday, 3 August, 2021 at 3:26 pm by Andre Camilleri

Employers have called for a ban on the government carrying out any public sector recruitment up to six months prior to a general election unless it is in critical professions, as a pre-election drain on human resources is forcing companies to opt for foreign labour.

In a position paper on how to address labour shortage challenges, the Malta Employers Association called for an end to the “pervert” practice in Malta that prior to an election, the public sector drains human resources from the private sector.

“Certain workers of dubious intent ask politicians for unproductive employment in the public sector even at lower wages under the promise of a “job for life” performing light work if any. Such people normally complement their public sector job whilst “moonlighting” or conducting their own private business while being subsidised from taxpayers’ money”, the MEA said – although it hastened to point out that the majority of public sector workers perform their duties diligently and in a professional manner.

However, in the interest of the proper functioning of the labour market and democracy, the MEA proposed that the government should stop “any recruitment six months prior to an election except in critical professions like teaching and care and health professionals.”

“This drain is leading companies to resort to foreign labour, resulting in inefficiencies together with an unnecessary increase in population”, they said.

The MEA also said that the practice of engaging persons of trust needs to be rendered more restrictive, controlled, and transparent and reiterated past proposals which include limiting the number of persons that can hold such positions, providing full disclosure of remuneration packages, and periodical audits to assess whether they’re actually fulfilling their roles.

Another short-term proposal is that the government should offer a half pension to workers who choose to stay in employment between the pensionable and retirement age – something which would make hundreds of experienced workers available.

As things stand, workers who qualify for a pension but decide to continue working until their retirement age (and hence beyond their pensionable age) would lose their pension for those years. However, workers who retire upon reaching pensionable age but before their retirement age receive their pension but cannot work.  Only workers who choose to continue working past their retirement age can work and still receive their pension.

“This incentive can retain hundreds of persons in the labour force in the private sector, and encourage many to remain in employment voluntarily also beyond retirement age. Workers of pensionable age are especially valuable for the purposes or training and mentoring new-entrants to the workforce”, the MEA said, noting that such a measure would be compatible with the government’s national strategy for active ageing.

The MEA also called for the phasing out of the Community Work Scheme, saying that over a thousand workers are currently employed under this scheme – many of whom could be more productively employed in the private sector.

Many of these people are underemployed and there is no reason why they should not be channelled into relatively low skilled jobs in the private sector, for example, in the catering and construction sectors, they said.

“We need to ensure that this scheme is not serving as a refuge for privileged healthy men and women to avoid productive employment.”

The MEA also said that review is needed in some of Identity Malta’s processes for the legal engagement of Third Country Nationals – such as regulations that mean that such nationals applying to work in Malta cannot bring their families with them, which employers say creates a major disadvantage when compared to other countries.

In longer term measures, the MEA called for a reform of the public sector to reflect economic and labour market realities, and for a detailed manpower survey in the public sector aimed at identifying areas of over- and under-manning.

“The strain of a ballooning public sector wage bill, comprising of employees, persons of trust, and thousands of outsourced employees will become too expensive to sustain even if the economy fully recovers from COVID, and the impact of the FATF greylisting is mitigated”, the MEA said.

They also called for reforms to the educational sector where Malta remains with the highest early school leaving rates in the European Union.

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