Right to disconnect: a matter of dialogue, not legislation

Digital tools have transformed the way we do business. Digitalisation has streamlined operations, boosted productivity, and improved business to consumer interaction. During the past year, the Covid-19 wreaked havoc in the economy, but it provided one silver lining by forcing, or rather enabling several work activities to go on remotely.

Remote working brings about several benefits, including flexible-work-arrangements and a smaller environmental footprint. This does not come without challenges and considering how digitalization is shaping our society and the workplace, it would be appropriate for all stakeholders to take up this matter and discuss it further in the context of the future of work, particularly to address challenges regarding the blurring of work and private time in the case of those making use of digital tools for work purposes. This ought to be managed through clear guidelines, educational campaigns, in-company policies, and training.

Recently, the Malta Chamber and the Malta Business Bureau (MBB) took note of public remarks by the Maltese Government on the prospect of introducing national legislation on the Right to Disconnect, even jumpstarting a process at European level. Both organisations agree that this is neither necessary, nor time appropriate.

Malta Chamber President Perit David Xuereb noted that, “European legislation such as the Working Time Directive, which is transposed into national law, already sets out the rules on working and rest time and protects the health and safety of workers. These rules are adequate, and thus no further legislation is required. Future legislation, particularly if modeled on a recent Maltese-led report in the European Parliament, raises many questions on how this could be implemented without adding substantial administrative burden on businesses. Needless to say that this is not the time to add more burdens on companies.”

MBB President Simon De Cesare acknowledged that, “If not well managed or if used excessively, digital tools can impact workers’ wellbeing, leading to stress. But in today’s society this is not just a work-related matter. It is equally applicable to private life. Therefore, rather than creating legal obligations, it would be better to create a space for dialogue where employers and workers, together with their representatives, find flexible solutions relevant for their workplace based on collaboration and mutual trust.”

The Malta Chamber and the MBB have in fact been proactive on the matter and have recently been awarded a grant by the European Commission through its European Social Dialogue programme to implement the EU autonomous framework agreement on digitalization in Malta, which was negotiated by EU Social Partners BusinessEurope and the European Trade Union Confederation. The General Workers Union is also an associated partner of this project and more stakeholders will be approached to contribute to the process.

The Malta Chamber and the MBB also welcome a point in the recently adopted European Parliament report by MEP Alex Agius Saliba on the Right to Disconnect, whereby while calling for an EU Directive, it refers to the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation, acknowledging that it includes arrangements for connecting and disconnecting and recalls how the Framework Agreement provides for the social partners to implement the agreement within the next three years. The report therefore notes that a legislative proposal before the end of that implementation period would disregard the role of social partners laid down in the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.

In the spirit of the above European Parliament resolution, and in view of the proactive stance by the Maltese social partners, the Malta Chamber and MBB call on Government to refrain from introducing national legislation on the Right to disconnect. It should rather encourage social partner dialogue to address new challenges and opportunities at the workplace and provide direct support to companies through more dedicated schemes to take up digital tools and provide safe equipment applicable for remote working.

Malta Chamber insists on more vigilance, discipline and remote working

In view of the new restrictions announced on Thursday, The Malta Chamber calls on all the business community to provide remote working options to their employees when possible. Only those workers who have no other option but to work on-site should be asked to do so. The Malta Chamber reiterates its plea to all for a greater sense of responsibility.

“Our journey has reached a very delicate juncture, as our country is seeking to overcome the recent spike of cases of infections while heightening its vaccination efforts,” said Perit David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber.

“We must remain vigilant. The record-breaking figures we experienced this week have been a stark realisation that the race has not been won, and we still have a long way ahead of us. We must not let the encouraging results achieved by our advanced vaccination efforts give us false hope. This mistake could have tragic consequences” Xuereb said.

The Malta Chamber urged the business community at large to do their part by strictly observing the mitigation measures in the workplace.

The Malta Chamber also called for stronger enforcement efforts, in the context of the demonstrably more aggressive variants, which are spreading the virus wider and quicker. The Chamber believes that if we all join forces we can lead the way to recovery. Every effort, no matter how small, can have a significant impact.

Care Home Operators Business Sector within The Malta Chamber meet with the Leader of the Opposition

The Care Home Operators Business Committee within The Malta Chamber recently met with Dr. Bernard Grech, Leader of the Opposition and Dr. Maria Deguara, Shadow Minister and spokesperson representing the Elderly.

Dr. Grech and Dr. Deguara listened to the concerns of Care Home Operators, especially following the last year as they battled Covid19 trying to keep the elderly in their care safe. They spoke of their apprehension now that, it has been suggested that measures within care homes will be eased and their wish that this would be done in stages, to further safeguard the elderly.

Other topics discussed were the shortage of nurses as Malta faces losing these to other countries, and the cautious approach required leading to more interaction with relatives, whom this last year has shown, are integral in the lives of the elderly, especially when it comes to their mental health.

Chamber Presents Public Procurement Recommendations To Hon. Silvio Schembri

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, presented a copy of its recently published report on a proposed Public Procurement Reform to the Hon. Silvio Schembri, Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses, during a visit by the latter at The Malta Chamber on Thursday.

The document proposes 36 tangible recommendations for improved public procurement processes, following a thorough consultation process with The Malta Chamber members.

Perit Xuereb noted that the document was another step in The Chamber’s mission for enhanced competitiveness. “This report outlines strong, tangible and effective measures that can be implemented to improve good governance practices while ensuring that a level-playing field is set for all players participating in procurement procedures,” said Xuereb.

“The document provides a detailed analysis of the current scenario, and practical guidelines on how this sensitive subject can be further developed in the future,” noted The Chamber President.

Minister for the Economy and Industry Silvio Schembri praised the Malta Chamber initiative concerning the public procurement report. ‘ As a Government, we are committed to enhancing transparency and good governance by introducing new and better methods within our entities as we have been doing in recent months. Stances which have proved beneficial and are now bearing results hence discussions are underway for such actions to be extended to other entities within the public sector’ said Minister Schembri.

The document was developed after a consultation process with its members and through a working group of experienced individuals and professionals from across the economy. The document serves as a valuable guide for the necessary reforms that are needed, in order to ensure that economic operators are able to perform on an equitable level playing field when tendering for government purchase requests.

These reforms also serve to ensure that national funds are deployed to their best potential and in the interest of the general public.

The Working Group was led by Vice President Ms Liz Barbaro Sant and included Former President Mr Anton Borg, Council member Mr Marcel K. Mifsud, and members Ms Maronna Filletti, Ms Mary Gaerty, and Mr Roderick Abela. The group was assisted by Policy Executive Ms Julia Aquilina, while Dr Clement Mifsud Bonnici (Ganado Advocates) was the professional advisor on the process. The document presented was developed in collaboration with Ganado Advocates.


Our Diversity makes us stronger

“Each and every one of us, especially those of us who are parents and have the opportunity and obligation to influence future generations, and those of us who are active business leaders within Malta’s economy have a vital role in delivering on the ingredients that reinforce national unity, a cardinal and moral objective for any country,” said The Malta Chamber President, Perit David Xuereb during the Conference for National Unity organised by the Office of the President of Malta last Saturday.

Led by H.E. Dr George Vella, President of the Republic, the conference aimed at initiating a mature and unconditional discussion on the subject with the direct involvement of the public.

“In order to engage collectively with the objective of a thriving community that prioritizes national unity, we must acknowledge the factors that, unfortunately, we allow to divide us. From political colour to sport fanaticism to skin colour to income scale, there are several aspects that hinder unity, since we tend to label too passionately and loosely,” explained Xuereb. This must be acknowledged if we are to be sincere.

The Chamber President paralleled any successful business that is composed of talent with diverse yet complementing skills with what may be expected of society at large. “Each employee within an organization, like a sportsperson in a winning football team, and alike a citizen within a country, brings uniqueness and value that is essential to the sustainable development of the team he or she forms part of. Diverse thoughts, opinions and talent that are coming from the mind are strong ingredients of successful societies. This should not be confused with the need for compassion for the alignment of our emotions in spirit. Our diversity makes us stronger!”

Perit Xuereb said that it is important and valuable to identify the factors that unite our citizens. “In the past months, we have all come to one united front and agreed that Good Governance had become a national priority and that Climate Change has become a significant quality of life opportunity. We have become able to extrapolate this principle onto other areas of common interest which we should celebrate stronger and more frequently. Only through such a perspective, can we engage in the correct positive energies that ensure a robust social foundation while securing an appreciation and an efficient use of resources that are available to us while prioritizing our mental and physical wellbeing,” the Chamber President said.

“As a Chamber of Commerce, we strongly believe that a code of minimal respect should be incorporated at the political, business, professional and personal levels to ensure that our society truly thrives. Tangible sustainability is key, and can be attained, when it is backed up by an honest, mature, and genuine society that is driven by robust values” concluded Xuereb.

Chamber discusses Opposition’s vision for Energy

The Malta Chamber President Perit David Xuereb welcomed the Leader of the Opposition the Hon Dr Bernard Grech, today for a meeting to discuss the Nationalist Party’s long-term strategy for energy.

Welcoming Dr Grech, the President spoke about the importance of a long term policy vision, especially in the area of energy.

“The Chamber’s vision for the energy sector, is for an economy that does not only balance sustainability with economic drivers, but which seeks for them to be complementary in the vision for a smart, sustainable island,” Perit Xuereb said.

The Leader of the Opposition the Hon. Dr Bernard Grech thanked the Chamber for its warm welcome, as he underlined the importance of a broad discussion on which to base the country’s long-term vision for Energy.

Ing Patrick Spiteri Staines, Chairman of The Energy Efficiency & Conservation Committee highlighted the importance of addressing excessive bureaucracy of energy schemes. He also noted the difficulty for businesses of finding a single point of contact to address energy concerns, which are usually fragmented across different portfolios and parts of Government. He also noted the pressing need for energy infrastructure to be addressed, through a modern distribution network.

Mr Joe Pace, Chairman of the Manufacturing and Other Industries Economic Group stated that manufacturers in Malta face a situation unique in Europe, where industry rates for utility bills are higher than commercial rates. ‘Rectifying this situation is important to maintain competitiveness for the sector’ Mr Pace said.

Mr Konrad Pule, Chairman of the Sustainable Mobility Committee spoke about the need to encourage a culture change to experience a modal shift in transport. He suggested flipping the polluter pays principle upside down to reward sustainable behaviour in the economy. He also warned that while electrification of the vehicle fleet is the way forward, this does not resolve problems with congestion, so there must be broader transport solutions.

The Leader of the Opposition was accompanied by the Hon Ing. Ryan Callus and the Hon Ms Kristy Debono.


PT Matic Renews its Sponsorship for Circular Economy Policy Committee at The Malta Chamber

The renewal of PT Matic’s sponsorship of The Malta Chamber’s Circular Economy committee follows months of hard work by the committee which recently resulted in a joint submission on the upcoming Waste Management Plan. Chaired by Ing. Oliver Fenech, the committee is composed of a wide range of waste management experts coming from a variety of backgrounds, bringing a comprehensive set of skills and perspectives to the table.

Through its sponsorship, PT Matic is driving a committee which promotes the best interests of all members of The Malta Chamber involved in waste management, both through the promotion of a more prominent role for private enterprise in Malta, and through advocating that EU Directives are implemented in the most effective way for all stakeholders involved. As it has recently done through its submission on the public consultation of the Waste Management Plan, the committee is making the case that competition, education and the transformation of waste into higher quality resources is the way forward for Malta.

“The Circular Economy Committee is proving to be an interesting forum of experts who truly have the environment at heart, while wanting to see change. Our interest is focussed on supporting private initiatives directed towards a green economy and formulating and submitting policy proposals to the authorities on Circular Economy. We are thrilled at the contribution that the Committee has been able to provide over the past months and we aim to continue promoting dialogue and supporting businesses in initiatives directed towards eliminating waste and the continual use of resources,” said Ing. Oliver Fenech, General Manager at PT Matic Environmental Services Ltd.

Moving forward, thanks to PT Matic, the Circular Economy committee will continue to develop policies in the best interests of a national waste management system which allows Malta to achieve its sustainability goals and targets. The committee will continue to be the voice of private enterprise in the waste management sector, responsive to the needs of the members of The Malta Chamber.