At Labour Day we celebrate the contribution, work and achievements of all workers, regardless of gender, race, creed, colour or religion. This year we also celebrate this important day for all of us, but with a difference, because for the second year in a row there is a pandemic. Today I want to remind you of the sacrifices that all workers make during this time.
All workers have been asked once again to make a sacrifice to save their jobs and the jobs of their colleagues. Workers were asked that the country needs them even in a pandemic.
And the workers heard the call of the country and once again rose up for the opportunity. Some workers worked tirelessly to keep vital services running. Other workers saw a drop in their income. Others were asked not to leave home. All have been concerned both medically and economically. In fact, this year we have seen a sharp increase in anxiety, stress and worry about what will happen tomorrow. We have seen workers go above and beyond what is required of them in order not to lose their jobs.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had said that this time will show the resilience of the GWU, the natural home of the workers. When I speak about the GWU, I speak from the member to every other functionary. And it was during this time that the enthusiasm, the consistency, the competence of the GWU officials was shown. The contribution was significant in working together to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
The workers appreciated the way we worked hard but fairly. Together with them we saved jobs, together with them we made sacrifices to manage the impact. Once again, the worker was a protagonist. As key social partners and the biggest representatives of workers, we worked with the government and other social partners to help during this time.
Now that we see a crack of light after 14 months, workers will again be protagonists in the recovery of the country’s economy. And just as we were protagonists and side by side with the workers during the pandemic, during the recovery every GWU official, from Shop Steward to the General Secretary, will be there to see that what we have achieved together over time is also respected by the employer.
We will not only ensure that what has been achieved is not lost, but also that the new world of work respects the rights and dignity of workers.
Since its foundation, the GWU has been built on social justice, on the values of solidarity, equality, equity and social mobility. These values must provide the framework for the new world of work to truly respect the dignity of the worker. We now have a unique opportunity to correct past mistakes, equal pay for work of equal value not only between women and men but between all workers in the same workplace, the right to separation, reconciliation of work and family life, fair education, health and safety in all workplaces, the right to privacy. Above all, we believe in dignity at work and human dignity holistically.
Workers deserve a high status in our society because sometimes in such moments we forget their importance and see them only as a burden. It is because of them that the country has progressed. It is because of them that workplaces have grown. We must not forget that companies that want to offer new services to their customers need skilled workers, and that is why we believe in the need for lifelong learning.
Through our constantly put forward proposals we believe that when the worker moves forward, so does society. We need to keep in mind that everyone needs each other, and together we can move faster without being left behind. Together the weight can be shared equally. If the worker is not treated well, motivated and respected he cannot be satisfied with his work.
At this time we also launched a study on living income. We are doing this because we believe that now is the time to give its definition and value to every person to live a decent life. We believe that a level of income should be scientifically established for everyone to live a decent life. There may be circumstances, which are not necessarily due to some deficiencies on the part of the individual or the family but due to uncontrolled economic and social factors. We are doing this because we believe that in an equitable society, everyone has the right to a decent income to live a decent life.
The GWU has always followed the progressive, socio-economic principles it has embraced since its inception, even when we are alone. Today, GWU will continue to live up to what it believes in because we firmly believe that we are on the right side of history. I say this in light of the consultation on the Government’s white paper entitled Towards Strengthening the Legal Framework for the Responsible Use of Cannabis. As the GWU we are in favour of decriminalizing the use of cannabis in small quantities and for personal use. We have seen too many workers charged for a simple joint in front of the Maltese Courts. We have read enough court decisions where the judges themselves have asked the country’s administration to consider more progressive changes to the law. Too many young people have had their lives ruined by something they did in the stupidity of their youth. We say this out of responsibility to our members and the society in which we live, and because it is underpinned by the principles of justice, proportionality and the right of individuals to make responsible and free choices.
My final call is for everyone to get vaccinated so that we can protect ourselves and those around us. I believe that together we can do more. We showed that during the pandemic and we believe we are capable of doing the same after the pandemic. We are convinced that we can do all this because we believe in and live by the principles of social justice, equality, inclusion and solidarity. Together with you, we renew our pledge to do better not only in the workplace, but also in creating a just and compassionate society.
Together with you!