During a meeting with newly appointed Minister for European Affairs and Equality Dr Edward Zammit Lewis, the Malta Chamber leading a delegation of employer organisations, explained its postion against the compulsory membership for employer or employee organisations, which in their view should remain a free choice of the individual or the business.
Flanked by the Malta Employers’ Association, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, the Malta Chamber explained that the right to freedom of association is enshrined in ILO directives, and the freedom of association implies also the freedom to disassociate oneself from either a trade union or employer organisation. Compulsory membership does not add to anyone’s rights.
The organisations insisted that compulsory membership diminishes the individual’s freedom by removing the right not to form part of any organisation. The bodies said that there should not be any barrier to keeping anyone from exercising the right to associate, but ultimately the decision rests with the individual as a free choice. It is up to the organisations to keep themselves in tune with the needs of their target public to increase their membership.
Statistics show that traditionally Malta had among the highest rate of unionised employees in the EU. This was a clear indication that employees were not hindered in any way from becoming trade union members if they see value in such affiliation. The Chamber also asked if this drive was financially motivated, given that membership rates were declining, as in the rest of Europe.
The employer organisations were pleased to note that the Minister was appreciative of their valid and well-researched arguments.
The issue of compulsory membership had arisen in October of last year, during discussion on the annual Budget in Parliament. The country’s employer organisations had immediately issued a joint statement stressing their position that the decision to join a union or employer body should be left entirely up to the individual employee or company to decide.