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GWU: 80 years of power for positive change in the country

In its 80 years of existence, the General Workers’ Union has shown that it has
always been a force for positive change in our country. But the union’s work is far
from over.
This was the highlight of GWU General Secretary Josef Bugeja’s speech when he
closed the first session of the union’s international conference. The theme of this
conference is “GWU – Building a Better Future: Social Protection, Dignity, Innovation
and Sustainability”.
At the beginning of his speech, Mr. Bugeja looked back at the 80 years of the union’s
existence and recalled that on 4 October 1943, a small group of workers, led by
Reggie Miller, came together to form the union. -largest labour organisation.
He went on to say that today we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of
the union and we are at a critical moment in our journey towards social progress,
social justice, inclusion, and equality.
“Over the past 80 years, the GWU has been a firm voice for workers’ rights, for
social justice and for the economic and social prosperity of all citizens of Malta. We
have fought tirelessly to ensure that workers’ voices are heard, their rights are
protected, and their dignity is upheld,” said Bugeja.
He added that GWU commemorates all these achievements with a sense of pride
and satisfaction. Achievements that aim to ensure that with commitment and loyalty
to the principles that GWU has always embraced, we continue to work tirelessly and
unceasingly to build a better future for all together.
The GWU General Secretary said the theme of the conference was a testimony to
the commitment and loyalty to what GWU has to its past and roots, for the benefit
not only of its members but all citizens of Malta. “People are at the centre of every
decision we make and every action we take.”
He said that dignity is a fundamental right that must extend into every aspect of our
lives, from the workplace to our communities and our nation.
Dignity at work means that every worker, regardless of the nature of their work, their
background, sexual orientation or religion, gender, or nation, deserves respect, fair
treatment and a safe environment in which to earn a living.
In this context, he mentioned the government’s commitment so that this law will
come into force after GWU has fought for years to ensure that every worker receives
equal pay for work of equal value. Currently, this new law is being discussed
between the social partners and the government.
“The basis of a just society must be protection and social justice”.
GWU also believes that the basis of a just society should be social protection and
social justice. This, so that no one is left behind. “That is why I am also proud of the
proactive role GWU has taken in the discussion on the minimum wage and low

incomes together with the other social partners and the government. Our goal
remains to achieve a decent living with the progress of time,” Bugeja said.
Here he stressed the importance of a strong and effective social dialogue between
the government, trade unions and employers. A dialogue that is fundamental to
shaping the future of our country and ensuring a decent life for our citizens.
He added that Malta’s investment in social welfare is not only a moral duty but also a
strategic one. Social protection strengthens the resilience of our society and is a
testament to our commitment to create a society where every individual has the
opportunity to succeed.
“We believe that the role of the General Workers’ Union is still one of the most
relevant, important and strategic in creating a more just, equal and inclusive society,”
said Bugeja.
The GWU General Secretary also referred to their proposal that every worker should
automatically be a member of a trade union of their choice. “We were and still are
convinced of this proposal,” said Mr Bugeja.
“We have all heard how Maltese and foreign workers are denied the right to
representation even though this is enshrined in the Maltese Constitution. Moreover,
this proposal should give every worker in Malta the opportunity to be involved in the
management of a company and have a voice in their workplace.”
“Inclusion and diversity are the foundations of a just society”.
He went on to say that GWU believes that inclusion and diversity are the foundations
of a just society. “We recognise the unique contributions that everyone makes to our
country. Inclusion means that every person, regardless of their background, is
respected. It means respecting and valuing the diversity that makes us stronger.”
On the topic of innovation, he said it should play a central role in creating a world
that is worker centred. Innovation should be the tool that simplifies workplaces,
improves safety and workers’ skills.

On the other hand, sustainability ensures the long-term stability of the world of work
and of Malta. Together, innovation and sustainability should promote economic and
social growth by creating sustainable jobs, promoting renewable energy, environmentally friendly processes, and green infrastructure.

“With these elements, the country can attract businesses that prioritise worker health
and promote social and environmental responsibility. We must strive for an economy
whose growth is beneficial to both investors and workers, and where the gap
between the haves and the have-nots is narrowing,” said the GWU General

“GWU will continue to be a beacon of hope and progress for generations to

He reiterated that as we look ahead, we must remember that the future belongs to
our young people and our children. We must continue to strive to leave them a better society where dignity, social protection and social justice are not just ideals but lived realities.

“We should return to the values that have guided the General Workers’ Union for the
last 80 years: Solidarity, Social Justice and Dignity. The same values that brought us
together will continue to guide us as we move towards a better, fair, equal and
inclusive future. Together we can build a Malta where no one is left behind, where
innovation serves the common good and where sustainability makes for a better
future “I wholeheartedly believe that GWU will continue to be a beacon of hope and
progress for generations to come,” concluded GWU General Secretary Josef Bugeja.