Union density is relatively high in Malta, with more than four out of 10 employees belonging to unions, at least according to official figures. Two main union groupings, the GWU and UHM, face one another, both organising a wide spectrum of workers, although some occupations, such as teachers, bank employees and nurses, are in independent unions. There are political differences between the two main groups and relations have sometimes been tense.
There are 101,801 trade union members in Malta. These are the figures from Malta’s Registrar of Trade Unions for the 12 months to 30 June 2019, based on the unions’ own records. They include 11,548 trade unionists who are in the pensioners’ sections of the two main union groupings, which means that around 90,000 trade unionists are likely to be in employment. With the labour force survey for the second quarter of 2019 reporting 211,448 employees in Malta, this indicates that around 43% of Malta’s employees are union members. This is close to the ICTWSS database of union membership that put union density at 44.6% in 2018.
However, a recent study, based on a survey of 781 employees in 2014-15 suggests that this may be an overestimate. Carried out by researchers at the Centre for Labour Studies at the University of Malta, it found that only a third of employees (33.8%) reported that they were union members.
By far the two largest union groupings in Malta are the GWU, with 51,787 members and the UHM with 25,821. As both cover a wide range of industries and occupations, they are similar to union confederations in many other states, although UHM is also a member of a union confederation, the CMTU (see below).
In addition to these two major bodies, there are some smaller unions, which often have a high level of membership in the areas they organise. The most important of these are the MUT (teachers) with 9,903 members, the MUMN (midwives and nurses) with 3,966 members and the MUBE (bank employees) with 3,000 (all figures from the Registrar of Trade Unions returns for 2018-19).
The GWU, which was founded in 1943, began as an organisation of workers in the British naval dockyard. It now has eight separate sections covering different areas of the economy: chemicals and energy (7,972), government and public bodies (7,677), technology, electronics and communications (6,537), hospitality and food (5,594), professionals, finance and services (5,027), maritime and aviation (4,657), metal and construction (3,989) and disciplined and security forces (1,891), as well as a separate pensioners’ association (8,443). Membership figures are from the Registrar of Trade Unions’ 2019 report .
The UHM began as a union for clerical workers in the Maltese government in 1966 and it has extended its membership subsequently. It has seven separate sections for employees: port and transport (4,870), health and elderly services (4,525), education and care(4,152), manufacturing and commerce (3,930), public entities and communication (2,761) and public service employees (2,478). There is also a UHM pensioners’ section, with 3,105 members.
The UHM and MUBE as well as five smaller unions, including the Medical Association of Malta (doctors), with 932 members, are members of the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions (CMTU). There are around 30,000 members in unions affiliated to the CMTU, although not all have submitted returns to the Registrar of Trade Unions. However, it is the member unions rather than the CMTU that are dominant in the relationship.
As well as the GWU and CMTU there is a third union grouping, known as Forum Unions Maltin (For.U.M.). Initially set up with eight unions in 2004, with the MUMN (nurses and midwives) playing a key role, it now has 12 unions affiliated, including the MUT (teachers), which joined in 2008 after leaving CMTU, and UMASA (academic staff), which has 546 members. Figures from the Registrar of Trade Unions indicate that these 12 unions, which are largely professional and technical, have 15,444 members.
The largest unions outside the three main groupings are Union of Professional Educators, a teachers’ union with 1,866 members, and two unions for the police, the Police Officers’ union with 1,257 members in 2018, and the Malta Police Association with 1,091 in 2019. Police officers only gained the right to organise in unions in 2015.
The GWU is close to the social democratic Partit Laburista (PL) and was formally merged with it for the period from 1978 to1992. The other unions emphasise their independence from political parties, although the CMTU and the UHM, its main component, are seen as closer to the centre-right Nationalist Party (PN).
Historically there has been considerable rivalry between the GWU and the UHM, including clashes over recognition rights (rights to bargaining with the employer and represent members in individual companies). However, on some issues there is agreement. Both, for example, support planned European pay transparency measures to reduce the gender pay gap. Relations are better between the GWU and For.UM, who have worked together on a number of occasions, organising joint meetings and conferences.
Figures from the Registrar of Trade Unions show that overall union membership, which grew strongly at the end of the 1990s before stabilising in the first years of the century and dipping as the 2008 financial crisis hit Malta, is again moving upwards. Over 10 years, declared union membership increased by 20.1% rising from 84,760 in 2009 to 101,801 in 2019. However, union membership has not kept up with the growth in the number of employees which grew by 52.3% over the same period, from 138,862 in the second quarter of 2009 to 211,448 in the second quarter of 2019.
One reason for the failure of union membership to keep pace is that around three-quarters of these new employees come from outside Malta. Figures from the Employment and Training Commission show that between 2009 and 2018 the number of non-Maltese employees increased from 9,530 to 55,280, with Italians as the largest group (9,379 in 2018). As a study by the central bank has shown that on average these non-Maltese workers only stay in Malta for 3.5 years, this makes them difficult to recruit. The GWU has, however, recently linked up with the Italian union confederation CGIL to provide a contact point for Italian workers in Malta.
To provide greater protection for workers in precarious employment, the GWU has called for trade union membership to be made mandatory, with employees who did not wish to join paying into a general fund. However, this has not been supported by the UHM.
The unions are stronger in the public sector than in the private sector, particularly in the private services sector. There are also more male than female union members on the basis of the 2018-19 figures from the Registrar of Trade Unions. In the two major union groupings, men outnumber women – by 38,141 to 13,646 in the GWU and by 14,459 to 11,362 in UHM – and, although there are important unions where women are in a majority, such as the teachers’ union (MUT), the midwives’ and nurses’ union (MUMN) and the bank employees’ union (MUBE), overall 60,554 union members are men and 41,247 are women.
 Report by the Registrar of Trade Unions: 2018-19 https://dier.gov.mt/en/About-DIER/Archives/Reports%20by%20the%20Registrar%20of%20Trade%20Unions/Documents/trade_union_report_2018_19.pdf (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Labour Force Survey: Q2/2019, NSO News Release 30 September 2019
 Jelle Visser, ICTWSS Data base. Version 6.1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS. October 2019
 An analysis of trade union membership in Malta, by Manwel Debono, Xjenza, 2018, Volume 6, Issue 1 https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar/bitstream/123456789/33871/1/Xjenza%2c_6%281%29_-_A6.pdf (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 CMTU – MUBE https://mube.org/cmtu/ (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Forum Unions Maltin, affiliated members http://forummalta.org/ (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 See Tony Zarb, last of the militants by James Debono Malta Today October 2015 https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/57852/tony_zarb_last_of_the_militants#.XqayM2hKiUk (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Unions and employers clash on compulsory wage transparency to address gender pay gap by Massimo Costa, Malta Today November 2019 https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/98715/watch_unions_and_employers_clash_on_compulsory_wage_transparency_to_address_gender_pay_gap#.XqlnGGhKiUk (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 National Statistics Office – Malta: News releases, 7 October 2009 and 30 September 2019
 Foreign Nationals Employment Trends, Jobsplus https://jobsplus.gov.mt/resources/publication-statistics-mt-mt-en-gb/labour-market-information/foreigners-data#title1.1 (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 The length of stay of foreign workers in Malta, Central bank of Malta, Quarterly Review 2019:2
 Cgil e Gwu, il 30 novembre a Malta inaugurazione contact point con Landini, CGIL website 26.11.2019 http://www.cgil.it/cgil-e-gwu-il-30-novembre-a-malta-inaugurazione-contact-point/ (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 GWU’s planned mandatory union membership allows paid opt-out, Times of Malta, 22 August 2019, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/gwus-planned-mandatory-union-membership-allows-paid-opt-out.730165 (Accessed 24.04.2020)
The key level for collective bargaining is the company level. There is also protection for those not covered by collective bargaining through a series of wage orders for specific industries that set minimum terms, and a system of partial pay indexation through “cost-of-living” adjustments”.
Collective bargaining in Malta takes place at company level at least in the private sector. Only the public sector normally negotiates common conditions across a range of workplaces.
There are no official figures on the coverage of collective bargaining in Malta. However, a recent study on union membership at the Centre for Labour Studies in the University of Malta reported that estimates of the proportion of workers covered by collective bargaining ranged “between 50% and 61%”. These figures are slightly above the estimates of union density, which are between 34% and 45% (see section on unions). There are no industry-level agreements to pull up coverage (other than in the public sector) but company-level agreements cover the whole workforce of the company concerned, even if only some employees are union members.
With no industry-level bargaining, there is no mechanism to extend the terms of collective agreements to employers who did not sign them. However, wage regulation orders fulfil a broadly similar purpose in setting minimum pay and conditions in several specific industries (see below).
The key rules for collective bargaining are set out in the Employment and Industrial Relations Act 2002 and subsequent regulations. Collective agreements can only be signed with unions, and, since regulations introduced in 2016, there are now specific rules determining which union has the right to conduct negotiations, in other words to be recognised by the employer (see below).
Employers are obliged to submit copies of the collective agreements they have signed to the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations, and its annual reports show that, in 2019, there were 34 agreements registered (nine new ones and 25 renewals/extensions) plus nine side agreements. There is some fluctuation between the years with 81 agreements being registered in 2018 (four new and 77 extensions) and 69 being registered over a two-year period from January 206 to December 2017 (15 new and 54 extensions). With agreements normally lasting three years, these numbers suggest that there are around 150 collective agreements that are updated on a regular basis, although this may be an underestimate. A Maltese industrial relations expert estimates that around 200 employers have signed collective agreements.
Many of those not covered by collective agreements are, however, covered by minimum conditions of employment set by the government. They are mainly set through “wage regulation orders”, which apply to specific industries, or “national standard orders” which have more general application. Wage regulation orders are made following recommendations from a board for the industry concerned made up of unions, employers and government-appointed experts, and cover issues such as minimum rates, breaks, annual leave rights, overtime premia and sick pay. At present 31 separate industries are covered, including private security, construction, travel agencies and food manufacturing.
Malta has a tripartite body for social dialogue at national level, the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD), bringing together unions, employers and government. The three main union groupings in Malta all have representation, the GWU and For.UM each have two, and the UHM and the CMTU (in which the UHM is the leading affiliate) have one each. The MCESD provides a forum for the parties to discuss social and economic issues, and in 2017 unions and employers reached agreement on an increase on the national minimum wage on the basis of a study commissioned through the MCESD.
Who negotiates and when?
The Employment and Industrial Relations Act 2002 provides for collective agreements to be negotiated between “an employer, or one or more organisations of employers, and the organisation or organisations of employees representing the employees”. However, a series of disputes, such as that between the GWU and the Malta Union of Bank Employees at the Bank of Valletta in 2014, indicated that new legislation was needed to establish which union had the right to represent the employees.
The Recognition of Trade Unions Regulations 2016 provided new rules to establish which union the employer should be “recognised” when negotiating rights were disputed. They are based initially on the proportion of employees who are members of the unions seeking recognition, with a subsequent ballot of employees, if required.
The Regulations cover three possible cases. The first is where no union is recognised in an organisation and a union is seeking recognition. In this case the union must show that more than 50% of the employees in that organisation are its members, and, if it can do this, “the employer shall grant recognition to that union”. The second case is where a union is already recognised but another union wants recognition. Here the union requesting recognition must show that that it has more than 50% of the employees in the organisation as members. However, this, on its own, is not enough to win the right to negotiate. The union requesting recognition must also win a ballot of employees, although only union members in the organisation – both of the union already recognised and of the union requesting recognition – can vote. The reason why a simple membership count is not enough, and a further ballot is needed is because Maltese workers are sometimes members of more than one union. This is very clear in the third case covered by the legislation, which is where no union is recognised, and two unions are seeking recognition. In this case, if one union has more than 50% of employees and the other does not, the one with the majority in membership gains the right to ask for recognition. However, if two unions both have more than 50% of employees in membership, there is a ballot – again only of union members – to choose between them.
The process is overseen by a government official – the director of Industrial and Employment Relations – and is intended to produce a rapid result. The union or unions and the employer involved must provide lists of members and employees within 48 hours of a request and the whole process, from initial request to a decision on the recognised union, should be completed in 28 days. Union members are defined as those who are no more than three months in arrears in paying their membership fees. Once recognition has been granted no other union can make a request for recognition for at least one year. In addition, in an organisation where a union already has recognition, it cannot be challenged by another union in the three months before and three months after the expiry of the relevant collective agreement.
The 2016 Regulations have been broadly welcomed by unions and employers. However, there is some concern that they have not dealt with the growing tendency for different unions to represent different categories of the workforce and sign separate agreements.
It is important to note that the procedure foreseen by the Regulations only applies where previously no union was recognised or where recognition is contested. In most organisations, union recognition is based on past practice.
In practical terms, negotiations are normally conducted by union officials, although they also take into account the demands of local union representatives and members.
Agreements typically last three years, but in certain circumstances, where the conditions in the company concerned justify it, they may only last one or two years. However, in the public sector, which with 30,000 employees makes up a major part of the economy, the deals last longer. The 2012 settlement ran for six years, from the start of 2011 until the end of 2016, and the agreement reached in 2017 runs for eight, from the start of 2017 until the end of 2024.
The subject of the negotiations
Agreements cover a wide range of issues including pay, working time, health and safety, grievance and disciplinary procedures, bonuses and sick pay.
There is not a full system of pay indexation, but the government sets minimum amounts – in absolute figures rather than in percentages – by which pay should go up each year. This pay increase, which is known as the “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) and is implemented annually through national standard orders, is linked to inflation, calculated on the basis of the Retail Price Index.
This annual increase, which comes into effect at the beginning of each calendar year is mandatory and must be given to all workers in Malta, with pro-rate amounts paid to part-time employees. Collective agreements should include the cost-of-living forecasts on which they are based, and if the increase in the agreement is less than the cost-of-living adjustment, pay must be increased by an additional amount to make up the difference. Generally, pay increases in collective agreements are in addition to the COLA.
There is also a national minimum wage. This is set by the government following recommendations from the Employment Relations Board, made up of representatives of the government, unions, employers and independent experts and also goes up by the COLA each year. In 2017 union and employers reached a three-year agreement on an increase to the national minimum wage over and above the increases provided by the COLA.
 For a detailed examination of collective bargaining in Malta see Malta: moving away from confrontation by Manwel Debono and Godfrey Baldacchino, in Collective bargaining in Europe: towards an endgame, edited by Torsten Müller, Kurt Vandaele and Jeremy Waddington, ETUI, 2019
 An analysis of trade union membership in Malta, by Manwel Debono, Xjenza, 2018, Volume 6, Issue 1 https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar/bitstream/123456789/33871/1/Xjenza%2c_6%281%29_-_A6.pdf (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Recognition of Trade Union Regulations, 2016
 Annual Reports of Department of Industrial and Employment Relations:
https://dier.gov.mt/en/About-DIER/Archives/DIER%20Annual%20Reports/Pages/DIER%20Annual%20Reports.aspx (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Godfrey Baldacchino quoted in Would you agree with compulsory union membership? By James Debono, Times of Malta, 8 November 2018 https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/budget-2019/90748/would_you_agree_with_compulsory_union_membership#.XrBWoKhKiUk (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Malta: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017, by Saviour Rizzo, Eurofound https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/article/2017/malta-latest-working-life-developments-q2-2017 (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 GWU holds MUBE responsible for damages in BOV dispute, Times of Malta, February 2014, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/gwu-holds-mube-responsible-for-damages.505760 (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 See Solved: the quest for trade union recognition by Vanessa Macdonald, Times of Malta, January 2017 https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/Solved-the-quest-for-trade-union-recognition.636316 (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Malta: moving away from confrontation by Manwel Debono and Godfrey Baldacchino, in Collective bargaining in Europe: towards an endgame, edited by Torsten Müller, Kurt Vandaele and Jeremy Waddington, ETUI, 2019
 New collective agreement for public service is the first of its kind, Public Service Government News, 20 April 2017 https://publicservice.gov.mt/en/Pages/News/2017/20170420_FtehimKollettiv.aspx (Accessed 24.04.2020)
In Malta it is the union – provided it is recognised by the employer – that normally represents the employee at workplace level. But EU directives have led to new arrangements for non-unionised employees. But it does not seem that these have been taken up to any extent. In addition, they still give clear primacy to the union, as they disappear if a union is established.
Workplace representation in Malta is primarily through the union. The Employment and Industrial Relations Act (EIRA 2002), the key piece of industrial relations legislation specifically states that, “employee representative … means the recognised union representative” (recognised means that the employer negotiates with the union). Only where there are no unions present does the legislation provide for an alternative. EIRA 2002 states that that in the case of non-unionised employees, [employee representative] shall mean such representative duly elected from amongst the non-unionised employees, by means of a secret ballot called for such purpose by the director [of the government agency responsible for industrial relations].”
This addition is in large part to meet the requirements of EU directives covering the provision of a general framework for information and consultation, as well as information and consultation in cases of redundancy and business transfer. In all three cases, arrangements have been made to allow non-unionised employees to be represented. There is no detailed information on the extent to which these arrangements have been used, although it seems that the take up has been very limited.
The starting point for most representation through the union is that the union should be recognised, in other words that the employer should be willing to negotiate with the union. This was previously a practical question of the strength of the union and the attitude of the employer, with employers normally willing to recognise a union, if it could show that a majority of the workforce were union members. In addition, the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations (a government body) was sometimes involved when recognition was disputed between unions. However, since December 2016, when the Recognition of Trade Unions Regulations came into force, trade union recognition has been regulated by law.
The details of these new rules are set out in the section of collective bargaining. However, in broad terms where a union can show that more than 50% of the employees of an organisation are its members the employer must recognise it. In some cases, there is a further ballot of union members. But this is only when there are two unions involved, either where an existing recognised union is challenged by another, or where two unions can both show they have more than 50% of the employees in membership – possible where employees are members of more than one union. In these cases a ballot of union members decides which union has recognition.
In two specific instances, covering collective redundancies and business transfers, the union has a role even if it is not recognised. Here the EIRA 2002 legislation states that the employer has a duty to inform and consult the “employees’ representatives”. If the union is recognised, then it is informed and consulted. If there are union members but no recognition, then the union represents unionised employees. Non-union employees elect their representative in a secret ballot.
In the more general area of information and consultation, where structures need to be permanent rather than linked to a specific occurrence – such as redundancy or transfer – legislation, introduced in 2006, has provided for additional structures. (These structures are subject to an employment threshold – see below.)
Unionised employees, where the union is recognised, are represented by their union in terms of their information and consultation rights. But, if there are categories of workers who are not represented by the recognised union or unions, they elect their own representatives who, together with the union representatives, enjoy general information and consultation rights. The same rules apply if there are no unions in the company at all.
The legislation also guarantees the primacy of the union structures. If a union is later recognised for a group of workers who were previously not covered by a recognised union, the term of office of any non-union representatives elected under the 2006 legislation ends, and they are replaced by union representatives.
Despite the potential for non-unionised structures for information and consultation to emerge through this legislation, the reality of employee workplace representation in Malta at present is that it either takes place through the union or it does not take place at all.
Figures from Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey indicate that employee representation at workplace level is relatively limited. In 2013, only 14% of establishments in Malta with at least 10 employees had some form of employee representation, in all cases through trade union representatives. This is less than half the EU28 average of 32%. The proportion is higher in larger workplaces (250 employees and above), where 66% had union representation. In workplaces with between 10 and 49 employees, the figure was 10%.
Numbers and structure
The number and structure of local union organisation at the workplace is an issue for the unions involved to determine. Generally, a union appoints a representative, often called a shop steward, for every 50 employees who are registered as members with the union. In bigger companies, there will often be a core group of four shop stewards to discuss major issues with management.
The 2006 legislation, requiring the setting up of information and consultation structures, applies to companies with 50 or more employees.
The legislation does not set out the precise numbers of information and consultation representatives, only that as well as the representatives of the recognised union – number unspecified – “no more than one representative” should be elected for each category of employees not represented by a recognised union.
Tasks and rights
The key tasks of the local union workplace organisation are to discuss and deal with day-to-day issues with management as well as representing union members facing difficulties with the employer. The union representative also takes an active role in collective bargaining and may be one of the signatories or a witness to the signature of a collective agreement.
As a result of the transposition of EU directives, union representatives should also be informed and consulted on a range of issues. The 2006 legislation requires them to be informed about the company’s “activities and economic situation” and to be informed and consulted about the “situation, structure and probable development of employment” as well as being informed and consulted about “decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or in contractual relations”. This phrasing is taken verbatim from the directive, and it is unclear how far it has led to changes in practice. Union representatives should also be consulted about redundancies and business transfers.
The same information and consultation requirements also apply to non-union representatives.
Election and term of office
In the case of union representatives, the election and term of office depend on the union’s rules.
In the case of non-union representatives for information and consultation, they should be elected in a secret ballot organised by the employer, with the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations being informed about the procedure and potentially able to intervene if there are complaints. There are no special nomination requirements for candidates, although any candidate standing must have passed his or her probationary period.
The term of office of these non-union representatives is three years, although, as already noted, their term of office is terminated if subsequently a union is recognised for the group of employees they represent.
In the case of non-union representatives for consultation on redundancy and transfer, the ballot to choose them is organised by an official of the appropriate ministry. Their term of office is limited by the length of time consultation over the redundancy or transfer lasts.
Protection against dismissal
Dismissal for union membership is unlawful, as is dismissal for acting as an employees’ representative – in most cases as a workplace trade union representative.
The 2006 legislation on information and consultation also provides protection for elected information and consultation representatives. They enjoy the same protection as other employee representatives and in particular they should not “suffer any detriment, including dismissal” for their activities.
Time off and other resources
Collective agreements may provide for time off and specific resources for trade union organisations. Otherwise there is no general provision.
The one exception is the 2006 legislation on information and consultation. It provides that information and consultation representatives have a right to “reasonable time off with pay” during working hours to perform their functions as representatives.
Trade unionists and employee representatives do not have a statutory right to participate in training
Representation at group level
The legislation does not provide for group level representation.
 See https://dier.gov.mt/en/Industrial%20Relations/Registrar%20of%20Trade%20Unions/Pages/Trade-Union-Recognition.aspx (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Eurofound (2015), Third European Company Survey – Overview report: Workplace practices – Patterns, performance and well-being, Figures for Table 44
Board-level employee representation in companies no longer exists in Malta.
The Maltese companies’ legislation provides for both private limited companies (Ltd) and public limited companies (plc), whose shares can be publicly traded. In neither case is there a legal requirement for board-level employee representation.
In the past there were employee directors on the boards of some state-owned or recently privatised companies. These have now all gone. The disappearance of employee directors was a consequence of policy decisions by the Nationalist Party (PN) government, in office from 1998 to 2013. Employee directors were either lost when companies were privatised or simply removed from state-owned companies. The statutory provision for the last worker director, at the energy company Enemalta, was finally removed in 2014, when the bulk of the activities of the Enemalta Corporation were transferred to Enemalta plc.
 Is employee board level representation on the way out? by Saviour Rizzo, Times of Malta, 16 November 2006 https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/is-employee-board-level-representation-on-the-way-out.35080 (Accessed 24.04.2020)
 Enemalta (Transfer of Assets, Rights, Liabilities and Obligations) Act, 2014
Most Maltese employee representatives for European bodies are elected by a ballot of the whole workforce. However, the legislation is less clear for Maltese members of the representative body and the board of a European Company set up under the fallback procedures.
European Works Councils
Maltese members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for an EWC are elected by secret ballot of all employees. They must be employees.
The situation is the same for Maltese members of an EWC set up under the fallback procedure in the annex to the directive.
Maltese members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for a European Company are elected by secret ballot of all employees. They must either be employees or, “if the management … so permits” they can be external trade union representatives.
The Maltese legislation implementing the EU directive on the European Company does not include specific details on how the Maltese members of the SE representative body, set up under the fallback provisions of the annex to the directive should be appointed. It simply states that “the election or appointment of members of the representative body should be carried out by the special negotiating body, in accordance with any method it adopts”.
In the same way the Maltese legislation leaves the method of selection of employee representatives at board level under the fallback provisions of the annex to the directive to the representative body. There are no specific rules for Maltese members.
Further information on the national SE legislation can be found here.
Workers’ health and safety representatives represent Maltese employees in the area of health and safety. However, the legislation does not specify how many should be appointed or define their precise powers. They should be chosen by the employees in the first instance but, if the employees do not make a choice, the representatives are appointed by the employer.
Basic approach at workplace level
The legislation makes clear that it is the duty of the employer to ensure the health and safety of all those affected by the work being carried out, and that the appointment of experts or any worker obligations do not affect the principle of employer responsibility. However, workers should cooperate fully and effectively in promoting health and safety.
Employee health and safety bodies
Employee are represented in the area of health and safety by a workers’ health and safety representative (rappreżentant tas-saħħa u s - sigurtà tal –ħaddiema). The legislation does not provide for health and safety committees, either jointly with the employer or for the employees alone.
Numbers and structure
The legislation does not contain a specific threshold for the appointment of workers’ health and safety representatives or the number that should be appointed in larger workplaces. It says only that one or more should be chosen, when “a sufficient number of workers are employed. In practice the Occupational Health and Safety Authority in Malta will normally expect a workers’ health and safety representative to be chosen in workplaces with 10 or more employees. In smaller companies, the employer should inform and consult employees directly on health and safety issues.
Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 51% of workplaces in Malta had health and safety representatives, slightly below the EU-28 average of 58%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)
Tasks and rights
There is a general duty on the employer to inform employees and their representatives about:
- risks and risk assessments;
- the preventive and protective measures taken; and
- the procedures to be followed in respect of serious and imminent danger, including evacuation, as well as the arrangements for first aid and firefighting.
There is a specific duty on the employer to inform workers’ health and safety representatives about:
- risk assessments and protective measures; and
- information on health and safety given to the employer by outside agencies working for the employers as well as by an officer of the health and safety authority.
The employer should consult workers and/or workers’ health and safety representatives “in advance and in good time” to promote measures to ensure health and safety at work.
Workers and workers’ health and safety representatives are able to make proposals on issues affecting health and safety at work, in particular on:
- measures with a substantial impact on health and safety;
- the appointment of employees with responsibilities for fire fighting, first aid and evacuation;
- risk assessments and preventive and protective measures;
- accidents at work and occupational diseases;
- the appointment of health and safety experts or outside health and safety consultants;
- the information given to employees on health and safety issues; and
- health and safety training.
Workers’ health and safety representatives have a specific right to ask the employer to take measures to remove or mitigate hazards, as well as making proposals as to how that might be done. They can also make representations to the health and safety authority if they consider that the employer is not doing enough to ensure health and safety at work.
They should also be specifically informed and consulted about the health and safety implications of the introduction of new technology.
Frequency of meetings
There are no committees in the Maltese structure and the legislation also does not specify how frequently the workers’ health and safety representatives should meet the employer.
Election and term of office
Workers’ health and safety representatives are elected or chosen by employees – the method of appointment is not specified in legislation, although it says that employees can make proposals to the employer on how they should be selected.
Where, for whatever reason, the workers fail to choose an employee to represent their interests, the employer should appoint an employee to act as the workers’ health and safety representative. It is the duty of the employer to ensure that there is a representative, when there are “sufficient” employees for this to be necessary (see above).The person so appointed can then act on the employees’ behalf after consultation.
A survey by the General Workers’ Union in 2007 found that just over a quarter (28%) of health and safety representatives were elected by the employees and the same proportion (28%) were chosen by management. Almost half (44%) were chosen in some other way.
The term of office is not specified in the legislation.
Resources, time off and training
The legislation states that workers’ health and safety representatives should have “adequate” paid time off to carry out their functions but it does not define how much this should be. It also states that the employer should provide them with “the necessary means” to exercise their rights and functions, but again does not define this precisely.
Workers’ health and safety representatives should receive “appropriate training”, which should be during working time and paid for by the employer. However, the period required is not specified in the legislation.
Protection against dismissal
Workers’ health and safety representatives should not be disadvantaged because of any activity undertaken in relation to their health and safety responsibilities. In particular they should not face disciplinary or other action if they have advised workers of an imminent and serious danger to life or health and these workers have stopped work.
Other elements of workplace health and safety
Maltese legislation does not set out specific thresholds for the appointment of health and safety experts. However, it does state in the key regulations that the “employer shall designate one or more persons having the necessary aptitude, capabilities, competence and training to assist” assist the employer in taking the necessary measure to ensure a health and safe working environment. It is left to the employer to decide how many health and safety are needed and the level of qualifications and training they need, taking account of “the size of the undertaking and, or establishment, the number of persons present at any time, the hazards to which the workers are exposed and their distribution”. If the employer does not employ these individuals directly, he or she may use external health and safety experts or an external health and safety service instead. The Maltese Occupational Health and Safety Authority provides training for health and safety experts and maintains a competent person register (of external health and safety experts)
The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (Ministeru għad-Djalogu Soċjali, Affarijiet tal-Konsumatur u Libertajiet Ċivili) and the body with day-to-day responsibility is the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (Awtorità għas-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol). As well as developing policy, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority is also body responsible for ensuring compliance with Malta’s health and safety laws.
Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the board of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. The unions and the employers each have seats of the nine-person body, although the individuals are appointed by the government to represent the respective interests of the employers and the employees. The other five members are government appointees, most with specific expertise.
Health and safety legislation in Malta makes specific reference to the need to tackle psychosocial risks. The 2000 Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act sets out the “measures that need to be taken by an employer to prevent physical and psychological occupational ill-health, injury or death”.
Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act: Act XXVII of 2000, as amended
General provisions for health and safety at work places regulations 24th January, 2003: Legal notice 36 of 2003
Att dwar L-awtorità għas-saħħa u ssigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħo: L-Att XXVII ta’ l-2000, kif emendat
Regolamenti dwar disposizzjonijiet ġenerali dwar is-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xoghol 24 ta’ Jannar, 2003: L-avviz legali 36 ta’ l-2003
 Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016
 Situation of workplace health and safety representatives, EWCO, 2007 http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2007/09/MT0709019I.htm
 For more information on the national context see OSH system at national level – Malta by Juliet Hassard, Ceri Jones and Tom Cox, OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Malta
It wasn’t until the privatization wave in the 1990s that a stock exchange was opened in Malta. Since then, public interest in share-ownership has risen slightly accompanied by a slight growth in employee financial participation schemes. Even so, the incidence of employee financial participation in Malta is low in comparison with other European countries.
In spite of the close historical ties with Great Britain, in which the origins of Maltese company law are to be found, employee financial participation is not very prevalent in Maltese companies and enjoys little political support. If at all, it is offered by large private companies.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Including such companies as Vodafone and the Mid Med Bank; for more detail see Debono, M. (2007): Employee financial participation in the New Member States – Malta.
Besides cooperatives in the public sector the most important forms of employee financial participation are trust funds. These were established in the course of privatization in the 1990’s. The most important trust funds are administered by the Bank of Valetta, a bank in which the state has a majority share, and Maltacom, the formerly state-owned telecom. These funds are open to all employees of the companies.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Debono, M. (2007): Employee financial participation in the New Member States - Malta
Employee share ownership and the trust funds
There is no legal base for employee share ownership programmes in Malta. However, trust funds constitute a legal way of introducing employee share ownership schemes. Since 2004 companies operating in Malta are allowed to establish such funds or to benefit from them.2 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '2
2. Rizzo, S./Carbott, D.B. (2006): “Financial Participation of Employees in Malta”; Bank of Valletta Review, No. 34, Autumn.
There is no explicit legislation on employee financial participation. Most employee financial participation schemes result from company-level agreements between privatized companies and their employees.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Rizzo, S./ Carbott, D.B. (2006): “Financial Participation of Employees in Malta”; Bank of Valletta Review, No. 34, Autumn.
There is no legislation in Malta on employee share ownership or stock options. If a company’s articles of association provide for employee financial participation, the employer can introduce one of the schemes, either as individual agreements or as part of a wage settlement.
The 1995 Companies Act prohibits companies from acquiring its own shares or those of its parent company or financially supporting any such acquisitions. There are however exceptions for employee purchases; Company Act, §106.2 permits the issuing of shares to a company’s own employees. The only condition is that company equity must not sink below the legally defined minimum.
Basic requirements are that the size of any discount must be stated in the articles of association, the discount must not exceed 10% of the issue price or must correspond to that stated in the articles of association, and the discounted share value must not be under the share’s par value. The Law on Income Tax (Legal Notice 125, 2001) states that the difference between the option price at granting and its market value on exercise is liable to tax.
The legal background for cooperatives is to be found in the “Co-operative Societies Act” (Co-op Act, 2001). Article 21 stipulates that cooperatives must be voluntary and independent associations fulfilling the economic, social and cultural needs of members in a democratically governed cooperative. Article 31 states that registered cooperatives are “corporate bodies with limited liability” independent of their members’ legal entities. Any member can be involved in the cooperative’s management and has voting rights, unless stated otherwise in the articles of association.
A minimum of 20% of any profit must be transferred to reserves at the end of a financial period for the sole purpose of covering any future losses. At the same time, 5% of any profit must be paid into a central cooperative fund for supporting education, training and research, and the development of the cooperative movement in Malta. Remaining profit is shared out between members. All payments are subject to income tax.2 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '2
2. Rizzo, S./ Carbott, D.B. (2006): “Financial Participation of Employees in Malta”; Bank of Valletta Review, No. 34, Autumn.
There are hardly any trade union statements on employee financial participation and it is not a high priority in wage negotiations. Nonetheless, trade unions are not principally opposed to employee financial participation.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Debono, M. (2007): Employee financial participation in the New Member States - Malta
In a number of cases, trade unions have supported company proposals for employee financial participation schemes and have been actively involved in their implementation. In most companies offering participation schemes the employees are trade union members. It is often suspected that the lack of collective wage settlements for whole sectors has led trade unions to support employee financial participation.2 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '2
2. Rizzo, S./ Carbott, D.B. (2006): “Extended Country Report: Financial Participation of Employees in Malta”.
- Rizzo, S., Carbott, D B. (2006): Financial Participation of Employees in Malta”, Bank of Valletta Review, No. 34, Autumn 2006.
- Debono, M. (2007): Employee financial participation in the New Member States – Malta.
- Lowitsch, J. et.al (2006): The PEPPER III Report: Promotion of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the New Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union, Rome/Berlin: Inter-University Centre at the Institute for Eastern European Studies.
- Lowitzsch, J., Hashi, I. & Woodward, R. (2009): The PEPPER IV Report: Benchmarking of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union. Country Profile “Malta”.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2013): European Company Survey 2012. Overview. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2010): European Company Survey 2009. Overview. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- GWU - General Workers' Union (En)
- Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM)
- Malta Union of Bank Employees (MUBE)
- Malta Union of Midwives & Nurses (MUMN)
- Malta Union of Teachers (MUT)
Confederations (and their members)
- Confederation of Malta Trade Unions (CMTU)
- Malta Union of Bank Employees (MUBE)
- Medical Association Malta (MAM)
- Union Ħaddiema Universita ta’ Malta (UĦUM)
- Union of Professional Psychologists (MUPP)
- Lotto Receivers Union (LRU)
- Malta Chamber of Pharmacies (MCOP)
- FORUM Unions Maltin