Why this story matters:
The Maltese government gladly parades the country's economic boom as a success story. They are proud of the "entrepreneurial" welfare system, which allows the Mediterranean archipelago to enjoy a generous social safety net without high taxes. However, as time goes by, cracks in the system are more and more apparent.
It is no surprise, therefore, that since the beginning of 2018, employees in key professions have decided to execute their right to take industrial action (action taken by employees of a company as a protest, especially striking) to improve their working conditions. So far, the government was able to reach deals with the unions and the country has not experienced a full-scale withdrawal of labour from health care and social service, but the prospect of it is looming.
Although these stories raise important questions, they are usually reported on in a cursory manner, with few attempts at analysis. One such question would concern the sustainability of the system. Why do things have to go as far as strike for the government to take the health and social care employees seriously?
The questionable priorities of the government are another issue. With over a tenth of Malta's GDP created by online gambling companies, last year, the Prime Minister visited Betsoon, the largest of them, to make sure the company was not leaving Malta. Nonetheless, Betsson has recently fired around 160 Maltese employees.
If the government was not able to safeguard the well-being of these people, can health and social care employees feel optimistic about their future?
Details from the story:
- In Late January, social workers employed in schools announced that they would take industrial action due to insufficient professional development. However, an agreement was reached and the strike was called off.
- Last week, doctors at a major hospital's outpatient department announced a strike against a shady privatisation deal. Most of the staff joined it, which affected around 1,000 patients. Finally, the government agreed to halt the privatisation deal.
- On Friday, public health care pharmacists have also decided to use their right to take industrial action, following a breakdown in talks over a new sectoral agreement.
- More recently, a strike was announced at a local college, MCAST.
- As reported earlier, the lack of staff in social services has allegedly contributed to the death of a seven-year-old from malnutrition.