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11 January 2019

Malta: Malta Council for Economic and Social Development to discuss proposal of compulsory union membership

In a letter to the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD), trade union GWU said this is an opportune moment to discuss a proposal on compulsory union membership. The Council has tabled the item, and although the proposal has received positive feedback from the country’s Prime Minister, employers’ organisations have rejected the idea.

The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) has tabled a proposal to introduce mandatory trade union membership. MCESD is an advisory council that issues opinions and recommendations to the Maltese government on matters of economic and social relevance. Its key aim is to promote social dialogue and consensus among all the social partners on issues relating to sustainable economic and social development. MCESD was established by an Act of Parliament (Act XV) in 2001 as a corporate body having a legal and distinct personality.

The proposal to table the item came from the General Workers’ Union. GWU has requested the council to put on the agenda a discussion on a proposal that gives every worker in Malta the possibility to be involved in a trade union of his choice. According to the GWU statement, it is the opportune time for such a proposal. The union also referred to a statement by the Prime Minister in parliament on the possibility of the obligatory introduction for workers to be part of a union and for companies to be associated in an organisation. The main argument is that every worker should be a member of a union to avoid being exploited.

GWU said that it also generated interest among social partners and referred to some employers organisations that are in favour of this principle. GWU believes that the proposal will have no negative impact on the country’s competitiveness, especially as several of the largest companies in Malta have over the years continued to expand their operations in coordination and cooperation with the unions. Moreover, trade union membership will be another step towards ending precarious work, abuse and exploitation of employees. However, the proposal was later shot down by the main employer organisations. According to the employers, compulsory union membership runs counter to the constitution; the freedom of association implies also the freedom ‘to disassociate oneself from either a trade union or an employer organisation’.

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