Malta has been given two months to adopt the European Union’s new law against precarious working conditions after it missed the 1 August deadline by which it was to transpose the new rules into national legislation.
The new EU law deals specifically with ‘platform workers’ such as the hundreds of food delivery drivers whose far-from-satisfactory working conditions have been under the spotlight in Malta.
The government’s failure to transpose comes despite the issue of precarious work and homelessness having been very much in focus in Malta over the last few years, with good reason, and with social inequality levels demonstrably rising.
The issue of precarious work and abusive working conditions resurfaced in the Maltese headlines lately when the plight of the hundreds of food delivery drivers, many of foreign origin, was brought to the fore.
In fact, the EU directive that Malta appears to be ignoring deals specifically with the plight of the ‘platform workers’ – food delivery drivers, taxi drivers, and home care workers – that have been in the Maltese headlines lately over their dire working conditions, which have been likened time and time again to a form of modern-day slavery.
The Commission has now launched infringement proceedings against Malta over its failure to act. Malta will have two months in which to conform to the EU law or it will be issued with a reasoned opinion, after which the country will be hauled before the European Court of Justice over the matter.
The EU directive in question (Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions) aims in particular to help the estimated two to three million workers across the European Union engaged in precarious forms of employment.
Amongst a raft of measures, the new EU law provides updated and more extensive labour rights and protection for workers in the EU.
The new rules will, for example, give workers the right to more predictability about assignments and working time, and to have timely and more complete information about the essential aspects of their job, such as place of work and remuneration.
In particular, the directive addresses insufficient protection for workers in more precarious jobs and covers all forms of work including zero-hour contracts, casual work, domestic work, voucher-based work and platform work.
These workers will now be afforded protection, once Malta transposes the legislation, and the new rules also come with targeted enforcement provisions.
Opposition kicks off workers’ rights campaign
The opposition, meanwhile, on Thursday kicked off its Conditions – Rights and Work campaign. The opposition said it will now study and recommend action after “the government for several months failed to address the problem faced by these so-called platform workers”.
The initiative was announced by PN MPs Ivan Castillo, Graziella Attard Previ and Darren Carabott.
The opposition took the government to task for having missed the 1 August deadline by which the new EU law was to have been transposed into national legislation, “despite the fact that the government had the EU new law in its hands for three years”.
The PN accused the government of having done nothing to address the conditions of workers on zero-hour contracts, and that it does not have any solutions – with the consequence that such workers are being treated as “modern-day slaves”.
“We are living in a country where Maltese and foreigners are being exploited, with workers being imported with the promise of dignified work… only to end up being exploited,” the MPs warned.
Maltese Living Income study results out on Friday
On Friday afternoon, the General Workers Union, Moviment Graffitti and Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar are scheduled to publish the final document of their joint Maltese Living Income initiative.
The final research from the study was over a year in the making and was commissioned by and carried out by Re-Think Advisory Group.
Material deprivation rates increasing
According to recent figures published by the National Statistics Office, the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is on the rise.
The NSO reported at the end of August on the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions, which shows the number of people living below the at-risk-of-poverty line (an annual income of €9,212) was no less than 82,758 – translating into an at-risk-of-poverty rate of 17.1 per cent, 0.3 percentage points higher than figures for the preceding year.
Moreover, the severe material deprivation rate in Malta stood at 3.6 per cent – up 0.6 percentage points. At 20.1 per cent, the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate also increased, by 1.1 percentage points.