“The financial package supports all those in need, in one joint effort. By supporting businesses, we are also supporting employees and by supporting employees we are also supporting businesses”, declared Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister, Carmelo Abela, during a press conference at Auberge de Castille. Minister Abela remarked that the most crucial aim of the economic regeneration plan is to support employees and work.
Minister Abela remarked that as from the outset of the pandemic, the government aimed at safeguarding jobs and guaranteeing adequate income. He added that to support employees, it is also essential to support employers alike. He explained how the Economic Regeneration Plan announced by the Prime Minister on Monday shows two very important aspects; resilience and sustainability which are the direct results of hard work and sheer diligence.
The minister said, “The measures we have announced, both those addressing enterprises and the investment in industrial spaces and employees’ skills development, directly benefit employees as they create new opportunities for them. This also holds true for the assistance which the government has provided to companies and which will help in their liquidity. These will also impact employees directly and will continue to safeguard their jobs as well as their income”.
The minister responsible for work conditions explained how this plan will enable the government to:
• Work so that employees do not lose their jobs and that they have a decent income. This is the reason why the COVID Wage Supplement will be granted until September.
• Guarantee that all employees will have more cash in hand. This is why the government has reduced the cost of petrol and diesel by 7 cents per litre, all couples who had to postpone their wedding plans will be supported and enhanced the in-work benefit;
• Stimulate the economy whilst supporting families and employees. This is the reason behind a reduction of the tax rate on stamp duty when buying property. The government is also granting a tax refund to 210,000 employees covering their work in 2018;
• Invest in the potential of employers and employees. This is why the government will support a skills development scheme.
Minister Abela also referred to the €100 voucher which will be granted to every person aged 16 years and over and which may be used in licensed holiday accommodations, restaurants or businesses which were forced to closed during the pandemic. He noted that the government – instead of introducing taxes – is giving money to enable people to continue spending in the local market and to purchase local products. He also spoke about two other initiatives, namely the refunds of electricity bills and the rent subsidies; two initiatives which will allow a flow of cash within businesses which can, in turn, be given to employees.
In terms of timeframes, Minister Abela clarified that measures such as the in-work benefit, stamp duty reductions, fuel cost reductions, the investment in industrial infrastructure and other measures, will still be applicable after September. He added that the October annual budget will also ensure that the government will continue to build on these economic measures. This after carrying out all the necessary assessments, as has been the common practice throughout every stage of this pandemic.
Minister Abela referred to the joint efforts resulting from a sound social dialogue – a principle which the government strongly believes in. He said that during these past weeks, the Ministry has consistently pursued consultations, both within the MCESD and also with other individual constituted bodies which are not part of the MCESD. “We were all in this together, and we will successfully emerge from the situation together”, said Minister Abela.
Minister Abela said that making work conditions better and stronger is, in fact, a basic principle for the government. This is not only clearly shown and proven by the €900 million injection, but also through the government’s implementation of the electoral programme and the third budget in this legislature. This without introducing new taxes and – contrary to previous experiences – families, employees and businesses benefitted from measures without having to give anything back. He also remarked that in the past days, he announced the implementation of 76% of the measures in the electoral programme (implemented in full or at an advanced stage of implementation), many of which directly focused on employees. The measures include the reduction of tax on overtime, the reduction of income tax for everyone, an increase in the minimum wage, the removal of tax on minimum wage and better work conditions addressing a wide range of sectors.
In his concluding remarks, Minister Carmelo Abela said that all this has enabled the government to safeguard 100,000 jobs which effectively means that 100,000 people have retained their jobs. “The government has kept an open channel of communication and has based all decisions on national interest, including employees’ interests”, concluded Minister Abela.