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Social Dialogue

Contents The Business of Solutions


All for one, one for all


Dialogue at EU Level


A vehicle of National Social and Civil Dialogue 06 Dialogue at national and international level 07 Fostering Social Dialogue 08 No one stands alone 09 Initiatives in Europe 10

Welcome to issue number 6 of the Voice of the Worker eMagazine. This issue deals with a subject that may sound to many as not really relevant. Social dialogue, through the interaction between unions, employers’ representatives and government, forms the basis of much of the decision making VOICE OF THE


that affects the lives of all of us. It is in everyone’s interest to cultivate an interest in what goes on in this sphere. Moreover, we believe that everyone needs to be integrated into this process as a matter of principle. Apart from the main feature, you can also follow comments by stakeholders, both local and European, on this important issue. Enjoy.

Who are the social partners? What is social dialogue?


The Business of Solutions The three social partners: government, unions and employers’ representatives. There cannot be one without the other. Together, they get their heads together and address some of the most important and pressing issues that effect us all. The next step: integrating every individual in Malta into this vital process. VOICE OF THE



All for one, one for all It’s the news jingle. This is a sign for Maria to grab her remote control and press the increase volume button. The news is her time of day where she could follow and update herself on the events of the day. The first item on the main news items is the proceeds of a discussion in MCESD. A controversy is being created. ‘All these meetings so that they could agree that nothing can be done’, interjects Ray, Maria’s husband. Ray does not appreciate that what they are following in the news is in fact an important exercise in social dialogue between the social partners. Who are the social partners? What is social dialogue? Firstly, the social partners are the major players taking part in that dialogue. This



includes government, workers’ representatives, as well as employers’ representatives. The system of the interaction of the three together is called the tripartite system. As to the meaning of social dialogue, according to the International Labour organization, “Social dialogue includes all types of negotiation, consultation or exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues relating to economic and social policy, including child labour, and to terms and conditions of work and employment.” Therefore, social dialogue is a process by which the social partners communicate and negotiate together. In order for social dialogue to be effective, it needs a an

official mechanism in which it could operate. In Malta, this officlal mechanism is called the MCESD (Malta Council for Economic and Social Development). The MCESD is the official forum where this discussion takes place between the social partners. The Maltese saying ‘fuq tlieta toqogħod il-borma” (the pot needs to rest on the tripod) is very apt for social dialogue. There can be no effective dialogue if one or more of the partners is not participating. Social dialogue is the essence of every democracy. Decisions taken at MCESD shape the lives of each and every one of us. Whether it’s economic policy, social issues, or worker rights, the discussion is very close to us. And that is why it is very important for us to follow closely and interest ourselves in what is being discussed and decided. ➜


The success of social dialogue is not automatic. Effective social dialogue depends on mutual respect, first and foremost. Secondly, all the social partners need to be equipped, and have the necessary technical capacity to be able to participate effectively in this dialogue. There also has to be the will by all parties to come to the table and discuss before decisions are taken individually. Social dialogue is about effective communication and negotiation. For effective communication, the social partners need to have good communication skills, and must be able to empathise with the other partners. As to negotiation, winlose, lose-win, or lose-lose are not options. The only viable option in positive social dialoge is win-win negotiation. This is not easy, and the balance is fragile. However, with a better understanding of the other partners’ roles, together with positive communciation process, this outcome is possible. It is something we all need to encourage.

The social dialogue process in Malta is coming of age. The time is ripe to move one step closer to better and more holistic participation. Social dialogue is not the sole prerogative of individuals who sit around the MCESD table. It is also the responsibility of each and every one of us to participate in this process. Unfortunately, abstension and indifference are a considerable problem. Many people carry on with their lives on their own steam, even if it results in them being left out in the cold. It is as if we are slowly being drawn into living day by day feeling comfortably numb. Many of these are indifferent to the system, but then expect the whole system to come to their aid when they need it. If left unchecked, solidarity may one day become just another word in the dictionary. Everyone has the right, as well as the responsibility, to partake in the social dialogue process. If not, it would be the equivalent

of a limb telling the rest of the body that it wants to live independently. The time has come to reverse this trend, and start on agreeing on the principle that every person in Malta is to be integrated within one of the social partners. Naturally, one needs to discuss and agree on a fair and operational modus operandi. One basic proposal could be that every individual would have an annual fee deducted, with the money channelled to the organisation of the person’s choice. People who do not have an organisation of their choice for one reason or another, could still have their fee deducted and invested into a national training fund. This is just an example of how such a system might work. What’s important at this point is that we all agree on the principle that solidarity and participation are a right as well as an obligation. We sink or swim together. It’s all for one, and one for all.

Everyone has the right, as well as the responsibility, to partake in the social dialogue process





Discussion comes in different forms such as consultation, negotiations and joint actions. It can also be tripartite, hence involving public authorities and representatives from the Member States. Two other important aspects of the EU social dialogue are the sectoral social dialogue and industrial relations. Discussions at EU-level between social partners can be based on different employment sectors. Moreover, especially through the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), the EU monitors and comments on the developments taking place in the area of inudustrial relations. Social partners have a significant role in the EU’s policy-making

process, mainly due to their participation in the consultation process of the European Commission (EC). Such an exercise, usually in the form of an impact assessment, takes place before the drafting of legislative proposals on social affairs by the EC. The Lisbon Treaty binds the EU to promote social dialogue, especially what is agreed upon between the social partners. Moreover, the Treaty set up the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment. Social dialogue is not just limited to the adoption of new EU initiatives; social partners are involved in the implementation of EU law. They are also expected to participate in litigations before the Courts of Justice of the EU regarding the interpretation

MEUSAC 280 Republic Street, Valletta VLT 1112 Tel: +356 2200 3315 • Fax: +356 2200 3329 • Email: VOICE OF THE


of social dialogue agreements expressed in EU directives. At Member-State level, the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) recognises trade unions as crucial players in social dialogue at the local level. Through its monthly Core Group meetings and Sectoral Committee meetings, MEUSAC invites constituted bodies to share their views on potential implications of EU legislation affecting the domestic industry. At present, Core Group meetings held prior to European Council meetings also involve the participation of the Prime Minister.

Social dialogue is not just limited to the adoption of new EU initiatives; social partners are involved in the implementation of EU law 5

A vehicle of National Social and Civil Dialogue One of the fundamental elements that attract investment to our country is undoubtedly our stable and strong democracy. Social and civil dialogue is an essential element in order for a country to be able to face and deal with economic and social problems and it is a facilitator of economic prosperity. The Social Partners are the protagonists of the success of Social and Civil Dialogue. The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) is the vehicle of National Social and Civil Dialogue. It is an advisory Council which uses an integrated approach to issue opinions and recommendations to the Maltese Government on matters of economic and social relevance. Malta has a tripartite system of Social Dialogue wherein dialogue involves Trade Unions, Employers’ Organisations and Government. The agendas of the Council and

its Committees are very much influenced by on-going national developments which the social partners feel require discussion. Since Government forms part of the Council, it also puts forward topics for discussion upon which national policy is often formulated. The Council, throughout the years, has helped in strengthening the relations between its members and this has contributed to industrial peace and cohesion in Malta. The Council has been instrumental in the implementation of various initiatives in the country including the industrial relations act. Apart from the main Council, dialogue also takes place within the Civil Society Committee and the Gozo Regional Committee. The Civil Society Committee was set up to give a voice to Civil Society in a structured manner. The members of this committee discuss issues of national importance and they form

opinions and recommendations which are then presented to the Chairman of MCESD. The Gozo Regional Committee within the MCESD was set up to strengthen dialogue with Gozo. By means of this committee, MCESD is extending its functions to Gozo and it is thus not only receiving suggestions and proposals on various issues related to the socio-economic development of the sister island by the Gozitans themselves but it is also strengthening cooperation between Civil Society within Gozo. Members of the Civil Society Committee and Gozo Regional Committee are also represented by ex-officio members on the Council. The MCESD strives to continuously improve Social Dialogue in Malta with the aim of improving the soundness and credibility of policy formulation and implementation. Social dialogue has a crucial role to play in the milieu of national socio-economic development.

MCESD 280/3, Republic Street, Valletta, VLT1112 Tel: (+356) 2200 3300




Dialogue at national and international level SINCE ITS INCEPTION, THE MALTA EMPLOYERS’ ASSOCIATION HAS ALWAYS ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED AND SUPPORTED THE SOCIAL DIALOGUE PROCESS AS A MEANS FOR STABLE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING BY THE SOCIAL PARTNERS ON NATIONAL ISSUES, PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE COUNTRY’S SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MEA is engaged in social dialogue at enterprise level through its interaction with employers and unions in collective bargaining, in the belief in the importance of industrial relations for Malta’s competitiveness and attractiveness to foreign investors. At national level, through institutions such as the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development and the

Employment Relations Board, the Association is in constant dialogue with unions and Government on matters of national importance. In spite of some scepticism, social dialogue has been instrumental in reaching convergence and consensus among social partners on many issues and in recent history was a critical element in designing strategies for pension reform, measures to mitigate the impact of the international

recession and the effect on Malta of the crisis in Libya, among others. At international level, the involvement of the social partners in dialogue through their involvement in European and international institutions is important as Malta is definitely part of a globalised community, and matters discussed at EU level and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is of concern to our society.

35/1, South Street, Valletta VLT 1100 Malta Tel: 21237585, 21222992 Fax: 21230227 VOICE OF THE



Fostering Social Dialogue As the Minister for social dialogue, I am especially glad that consumer affairs and civil liberties fall within the remit of the ministry which l am currently heading. This is because I believe that dialogue is the key to allowing all sectors of society voice their concerns. Then, of course, it is my role and that of government to ensure that the outcomes also benefit consumers and vulnerable communities within our society. Dialogue does not serve solely to iron out contrast, but it facilitates the reconsideration of one’s position in the light of valid criticism. That’s what this government has been doing since the beginning of its legislature. Within the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development alone, we put on the discussion table our proposals addressing various issues, including: the phenomenon of early school VOICE OF THE


leaving; measures to fight precarious employment; the best use of European Union funds; various budget proposals; the situation at Enemalta; government’s waste management strategy and our plans regarding Gozo’s economic and social development among other items. Within the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee Core Group meetings, we have discussed various issues with social partners, civil society and political parties which were on the agenda of the European Council before the government set its policy regarding the issues under discussion. Indeed, the Prime Minister has already made a commitment to attend Core Group meetings that are held prior to the formal meetings of the European Council in June and December. All parties involved in a dialogue need to be patient and ready to listen to one another, doing their utmost to understand each

Dr Helena Dalli Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties

other’s comments, criticisms, suggestions and aspirations. As a government we are clear that we want dialogue to flourish, bringing out the best from all sectors of society to help us draw better policies that are in the best interests of our country and our people. 8

Claudette Buttigieg Shadow Minister for Social Dialogue and Social Liberties

No one stands alone

One of the areas which has intrigued me most in politics is Social Dialogue. Being a communicator by profession I have always wondered on how this process has changed the face of politics. In our recent history, particularly in the process to join the EU and ever since we became full members, Social Dialogue has been an essential political tool at a national, European and global level. Within the EU structures, Social Dialogue is given huge importance. Article 152 of the Treaty on the VOICE OF THE


Functioning of the European Union states: ‘The Union recognizes and promotes the role of the social partners at its level, taking into account the diversity of national systems. It shall facilitate dialogue between the social partners, respecting their autonomy.’ This also applies to Malta. No union can stand alone and no Government can do away with true Social Dialogue. The recent turmoils in Ukraine are a living proof of what the lack of Social Dialogue can actually lead to. However Social Dialogue must not

be used as a “gimmick” to keep people happy. It cannot be used to send the message that those in power are listening when they are only pretending to. When workers face difficulties at work and unemployment looms on the horizon, unions stand up to speak on their behalf. Protests and demonstrations are always the last resort and should only be used with caution when Social Dialogue truly fails. However, Governments must take heed and give Social Dialogue its due in full respect of democracy. 9

Initiatives in Europe


The following are some of the documents and tools connected to the area of Social Dialogue on a European level. This information is gathered by the Brussels office of the Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori (CIA). During the last High Level International Conference of the European Trade Union Confederation ( ETUC) “ Bridge to Welfare -the Role of Social Dialogue for Sustainable Economic and Social Development” held last September 2013, the ETUC General Secretary Mrs Bernadette Ségol gave a speech on the role of social dialogue in today’s social and economic realities. The speech is available at the following link:

The European Commission This guide was prepared by DG Regional and Urban Policy and DG Employment, Social affairs and Inclusion, have released in 2013 a ‘ Guide to Social Innovation’ in order to promote the competitiveness of the EU and its regions which are well placed to play a leading role in this process. Regional authorities and local entities are the main actors, they can make the difference in the promotion of social innovation, by providing funds, bringing various stakeholders together, putting forward strategic thinking and supporting the generation of fresh ideas to overcome societal and social challenges.


The GUIDE TO SOCIAL INNOVATION is downloadable here: Socialsca is a mapping and discovery platform that connects your world , it helps you to explore your local community and discover the people and organizations positively active around you with. With your network of people and activities you can contribute in the implementation of this platform. Explore your local community and discover the world of good around you on

MindLab is a cross-governmental innovation unit which involves citizens and businesses in developing new solutions for the public sector. MindLab instrumental in helping group of owners, key decision-makers and employees in checking their efforts from the outside-in, to see them from a citizen’s perspective. They use this approach as a platform for co-creating better ideas. You can access the platform from this link:

UNION ÓADDIEMA MAGÓQUDIN (Malta Workers’ Union) Dar Reggie Miller, St Thomas Street, Floriana, FRN 1123 - Malta Tel +356 21220847 - +356 21234801 - +356 21236484 • Email Operational Programme II - Cohesion Policy 2007-2013 Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality of Life Project part-financed by the European Union European Social Fund (ESF) Co-financing rate: 72.25% EU, 12.75 MT, 15% Private Funds Investing in your future

UĦM Voice of the Workers eMagazine issue 06  

UĦM Voice of the Workers eMagazine issue 06