Thousands of foreign workers in peril as agencies operate illegally

Aqra bil-Malti.

Thousands of foreign workers, mostly third-country nationals in the hospitality sector, risk heavy fines and possible deportation as several of the temping agencies employing them remain unlicensed.

As of 1 June, a new law came into force that requires all companies or individuals acting as temping or outsourcing agencies to have a licence issued by the government.

The Shift is informed that the government has only issued about 30 licences. At the same time, several other unlicensed agencies, including individuals, continue to illegally provide the services of third-country nationals for hotels, restaurants, bars, and the manufacturing industry.

Temping agencies refused a licence because they did not meet the criteria still continue to operate, and the regulator –  the Department for Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER) – which is the responsibility of Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul has not taken any action.

Speaking to The Shift, hotel and manufacturing industry managers described their “ridiculous” situation. They noted that the government introduced a law just to give the impression that it was trying to control the employment sector.

“The department tasked with regulating temping agencies does not even have inspectors to ensure that the law is observed,” a hotelier told The Shift.

Another said, “Now we are finding ourselves in a Catch-22 situation. We know that some agencies providing us with temporary workers are operating illegally, but we have no choice but to hire their workers; otherwise, we can’t cope. We hope the government does not take the easy way out and start fining us and the individual workers instead of the temping agencies operating illegally.”

Mayhem in the industry

Temping and outsourcing agencies have flourished in recent years, with tens of thousands of employees from countries outside the EU being brought to Malta and given temporary contracts with companies mostly operating in the hospitality and entertainment industry.

Since no rules existed, the government allowed the temping industry to go unchecked, which resulted in the exploitation of foreign workers, particularly those with small, unregulated outsourcing agencies.

Negative political polls last year indicated that Prime Minister Robert Abela’s popularity was hurt by concerns about overpopulation, so his government tried to introduce stricter rules in the sector.

Industry sources told The Shift that hundreds of foreign workers are being shifted onto the books of large, licensed temping agencies as they seek to regularise their position after some employers did not obtain a temping agency licence. Those agencies with licences now cannot cope with the increased demand.

Government agency silent

Last April, the Office of the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul addressed a press conference warning temping agencies to regularise their position by 1 June as the government would be tough with lawbreakers.

Diane Vella Muscat, the Director General of the DIER, refused to reply to questions from The Shift on how many licences were issued by 1 June, when the new law entered into force.

She also failed to explain why several agencies without licences were still allowed to operate.

Sources told The Shift that the department had already flagged issues about the regulatory aspect of this new rushed law, including lack of capacity and staff, but nothing has yet been done to address them.

                           

Sign up to our newsletter

Stay in the know

Get special updates directly in your inbox
Don't worry we do not spam
                           
                               
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Philibert Gouder
Philibert Gouder
1 month ago

In order to appreciate the magnitude of this government endorsed scam, one has to factor in the modus operandi of the agencies.

Workers are promised high wages, but are given a contract to sign once they arrive for much less. It’s a take it or go back home(which they obviously can’t do since they haven’t got the necessary funds, apart from loosing the deposit)Apart from the down payment, the agency fee (€6,000+) is deducted from their wage.They are forced to accept the lodging offered (circa €200/mo)There is obviously collusion between agencies and govt agencies in processing the relative documents, where the latter do not flag discrepancies nor irregularities re skills, domicile, etc. There’s also a racket going with employers, since these often refuse to employ directly applicants, but insist that they go through agents, which subsequently charge €160 per month. This applies also to individuals acting as agents, who negotiate a wage of €1100-€1120 with employers, but actually pass on less the €160.There’s been also several cases where TCNs relocated elsewhere in Europe, where the first agents “sell” the workers to a foreign agent, together with their debt.One cannot appreciate the vulnerability of these workers who leave their home to provide for their poor families, burdened with legal liabilities on their kin and extended families.

Last edited 1 month ago by Philibert Gouder
Joe
Joe
1 month ago

True Maltese way indeed. Disgusting.

Charles
Charles
1 month ago

Slavery is alive and well in Malta!

Tvkitson
Tvkitson
1 month ago

Yep ,This is Malta, Money,Money Money.
Just Fleece them,
Maltese Robbers!!

Alfred Debono
Alfred Debono
1 month ago

How did they enter Malta in the first place?

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
1 month ago

THE MALTESE JUNGLE IS ALL-PERVASIVE.

wenzu
wenzu
1 month ago

Typical government modus operandi. Make up a bunch of rules and regulations, then totally disregard their enforcement. Just goes to show what a complete waste of space politicians (and Diane Vella Muscat) really are.

Last edited 1 month ago by wenzu
Didi
Didi
1 month ago

Andy Ellul, wake up !!
Why is DIER doing nothing?

Robert pace bonello
Robert pace bonello
1 month ago

How did they enter the Country in the first place? Who are the names behind these temping companies?

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

I find this abuse disgusting. Thank you Shift for exposing this racket… I would like you to ask what the other parties propose to do to end this modern slavery. Are they happy with dipping their fingers in the pie too?

Anna Briffa
Anna Briffa
24 days ago

At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the writing was on the wall when JM stated – pre 2013 election or just after – that he didn’t wish the Maltese workers to suffer doing manual labour in the heat. This was a dangled carrot encouraging entitlement to easy money. If the government really wanted to alleviate current and future labour supply problems caused by a diminishing birth rate and an exodus of skilled/qualified millennials, they should have formulated a humane policy with appropriate regulatory structures instead of condoning a free-for-all slave market to enrich clearly amoral individuals who act as agents or state employees who turn a blind eye on this activity for a brown envelope.

Related Stories

Roberta Metsola appointed European President with highest ever vote
Roberta Metsola has been re-elected European Parliament President with
Court orders Stagno Navarra to pay his lawyer’s bills
Labour propagandist Karl Stagno Navarra was found guilty of

Our Awards and Media Partners

Award logo Award logo Award logo