Malta: Unions propose overhaul of work permits to prevent exploitation of migrant workers

A radical overhaul of the work permits regime for non-EU nationals has been proposed as the current restrictive system allows employers to exploit such employees.

Employment licences for non-EU nationals are issued by the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC). Employers are given total control over these workers as ETC guidelines state that persons given such a work licence are not permitted to take up a different job for a different employer, even on a part-time basis.  On the other hand, the employer may cancel the work permit: in this case, he is obliged to inform ETC and state the reason for the cancellation. Once their work permit is withdrawn these persons risk deportation. These workers generally find it difficult to seek redress or sue for victimisation through the administrative set-up. Often, they are not aware of their rights and cannot easily find the assistance to seek a remedy.

GWU secretary-general Josef Bugeja reported that foreign workers had approached the union alleging that their employers were using their control over work permits to blackmail them. UHM secretary-general Josef Vella confirmed that such cases have been reported to the union. Employment law expert Ian Spiteri Bailey proposed the setting up of a unit for vulnerable workers, possibly within the Department for Employment and Industrial Relations. The GWU called for a radical overhaul of the work permits regime in order to prevent exploitation. It suggested that work permits be retained by ETC or any other public entity rather than by the employer. The UHM has proposed giving workers information online, helping them to ensure that their employment contract respects their rights (TOM 21/10/2015).  

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