Ozo Group becomes first Maltese company to partner with Slave-Free Alliance

From left to right: Mary Grace Calleja (Shop Stewart), Mario Muscat (Ozo Group Chairman), Kevin Abela (GWU secretary for food hospitality section), Josef Bugeja (General Secretary GWU), Rachel Hartley (Consultancy Director Slave-Free Alliance), Fabio Muscat (CEO Ozo Group), Tom Frost - SFA Advisor)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 September, 2023 at 3:10 pm by Andre Camilleri

Ozo Group CEO welcomes government regulations for temping-agencies: “These regulations will benefit the market and will help weed out abuses.”

Ozo Group, one of Malta’s largest employers, has signed a partnership with Slave-Free Alliance, to prevent any exploitation and modern slavery within its operation.

Slave-Free Alliance is part of the non-profit Hope For Justice and works with organisations to protect human rights in operations and supply chains.

“Slave-Free Alliance is delighted to partner with Ozo Group in identifying and mitigating the risk of labour exploitation and modern slavery in their business and supply chain,” said Slave-Free Alliance’s Rachel Hartley.

“We applaud Ozo Group for inviting our organisation into their business, and value their transparency in sharing their history and business model. This enables Slave-Free Alliance to accurately assess and support their efforts in addressing exploitation, highlighting areas of risk as well as best practice,” Hartley added.

The partnership was announced on the same day as the signing of a new collective agreement between Ozo Group and General Workers’ Union.

CEO Fabio Muscat said Ozo Group was already the first Maltese company in this industry to sign a collective agreement with the GWU back in 2014, providing workers with a consolidated set of rights over and above those required by law.

Now, this collective agreement is being renewed alongside the partnership with Slave-Free Alliance to mark a renewed commitment to improve worker conditions and prevent exploitation.

“Ozo has submitted itself to an independent review and benchmarking which sets us as pioneers of even higher standards for the local market and in the protection of our employees,” Muscat said.

“Our collaboration with the Slave-Free Alliance is driven by our belief that every employee should work in an environment that is free from exploitation, where their rights are protected and their dignity is upheld.”

“We are committed to implementing robust measures, rigorous audits, and comprehensive training programs to ensure that no employee in our organisation, or anywhere in the industry, falls victim to modern slavery,” Muscat said, as he called on all industry stakeholders and policymakers to address this issue more collectively.

Muscat also welcomed the government’s announcement to introduce regulations governing agencies like Ozo Group.

“It is clear that our economy needs foreign workers. Without these human resources, not only our hospitality industry, but our healthcare and necessary services would grind to a halt… These regulations will benefit the market and will help weed out abuses,” he said.

General Workers’ Union Secretary General Josef Bugeja said the GWU had spent 80 years helping to shape the social and economic landscape of Malta through collective bargaining and social dialogue.

Bugeja said Ozo Group’s affiliation with Slave-Free Alliance was “an example for all players in the service industry”, and underscored the group’s commitment to ethical labour practices, human rights, and the eradication of one of the gravest injustices that plague our world today.

“Together we can eradicate abuse. Together, we can achieve great things and create a brighter future for our members and workers alike,” Bugeja said, adding that the GWU was currently in discussions with the government and other social partners for the drafting of new legislation to regularise service providers and eradicate abuse.

During the signing ceremony, the HR director of Ozo Group underlined that all of the company’s employees were paid more than the minimum wage and given an additional discretionary allowance.

The company also offers employees three working days of leave in cases of personal loss, including the loss of an unborn child, and a specific policy to address grievances and discipline in a way that prioritises education over letting people go.

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