Vacation Leave, PaySlips etc

Changes to vacation leave regulations, which came into force a few days ago, have prompted objections from employers who fear they would result in higher payrolls.
Under the new system, annual leave allotment will continue to accrue even during a period in which the employee is on maternity, sickness or injury leave and even when on unpaid leave.
Moreover, the new regulations state that, once granted, leave cannot be revoked under no circumstances whatsoever. Also, employers can only utilise up to 12 working days from the annual leave entitlement for the shutdown period.
Employment and industrial relations lawyer Ian Spiteri Bailey raised the matter in an opinion piece appearing on Times of Malta.
Apart from vacation leave, he also focused on new payslip regulations enacted concurrently. The changes came into force through legal notices 371 and 374 of 2018 published on August 10.
Dr Spiteri Bailey questioned the level of consultation with the social partners on the changes, expressing concern on several aspects.
The regulations could place employers in a straightjacket, especially the provision that leave could not be revoked, he told this newspaper.
“While workers have the right for emergency leave, there is no such provision to cater for exceptional cases whereby employers could risk seeing their company grind to a halt due to a sudden shortage in their workforce. This might give rise to a situation whereby there is no level playing field,” he warned.
A situation whereby there is no level playing field
Dr Spiteri Bailey also raised questions on the new rules about payslips.
“Will employers be given a transitional period to include the added information that is now required by law to appear in the payslip? What will happen if some data is missing? Will the employer be liable to a fine for every single worker on his books,” he wondered.
The Malta Employers Association’s director general, Joe Farrugia, expressed himself surprised with the changes.
He recalled that employers had already objected to the government’s pledge to compensate public holidays falling on a weekend with an additional day of leave but they had other concerns too.
“It is not fair that workers keep accruing vacation leave when they are not reporting for work, say during maternity leave, when sick or even when they are on unpaid leave,” he said.
He said the matter would be raised at the next meeting of the Employment Relations Board, adding he did not recollect debating the new regulations within this entity.
On the other side of the spectrum, the General Workers’ Union lauded the government’s move and insisted the measures were debated as part of a broader set of proposals within the ERB.
The amendments addressed loopholes, grey areas and issues we had been flagging for years, a spokesman said.
The union was continuously being consulted by the government authorities and national organisations on various subjects, he said.
“A case in point are the proposals we put forward to eradicate precarious employment, the issue of public holidays falling on a weekend and the European Directive on the posting of workers,” the spokesman continued.
Questions on timing and consultations leading to the changes were raised by UĦM Voice of the Workers CEO Josef Vella.
Noting that the regulations seemed to be skewed towards workers, he said that no such debate had been held recently within the ERB, at least since the start of this year.
“I would have expected a draft of these legal notices to be circulated in advance rather than have these changes enacted like a bolt from the blue,” he said.
The Ministry for European Affairs and Equality, which published the regulations, insisted that, apart from the Employment Relations Board, the changes had also been on the agenda of a national public conference.
Reacting to the employers’ criticism that the leave regulations would increase costs, a ministry spokesman noted that the measures were necessary to ensure that national laws were in line with decisions made by the European Court of Justice.
Amendments addressed loopholes and grey areas
Asked if there would be a transitional period for companies that do not adhere to all payslip regulation requirements, the spokesman said the Department of Industrial and Employment relations always warned non-complying employers in advance before taking action.
However, he was rather evasive when asked to clarify whether companies in breach would be slapped with a global amount or a cumulative sum for every employee on its books. The spokesman merely referred this newspaper to the legal notice saying those found guilty would have to pay a fine.
As for the possibility of the employers being empowered to revoke leave in exceptional circumstances, the spokesman said the right to urgent family leave, amounting to 15 hours a year, was stipulated by subsidiary legislation (452.88).
New vacation leave regulations
As from January 1, 2019, unless otherwise agreed in any applicable collective agreement, the employer may only utilise up to the equivalent of 12 working days from the annual leave entitlement for the purposes of any type of shutdown, including temporary closure of whole or part of the premises by the employers for bridge holidays or any other short periods of shutdown. Such period must be communicated to employees by the end of January.
Once leave from the annual entitlement has been agreed to by the employer and employee, it can only be cancelled if both sides agree.
Annual leave shall continue to accrue in favour of an employee during the period when they are on maternity, injury or sick leave. Such provision may apply irrespective of whether this leave is fully paid, partially paid or unpaid.
When a public or national holiday falling on a day of work or on a weekly day of rest, not being a Saturday or a Sunday, falls within the period of maternity leave, the employee shall be entitled to the equivalent hours of an additional day of annual leave.
Any period of pre-arranged leave coinciding with a period of maternity, sickness or injury leave shall be carried to the subsequent year if such leave could not be availed of during the same year.
In case of termination of employment, all the leave accrued during a period of maternity leave, sickness or injury that had not been availed of, must be paid in accordance with the Organisation of Working Time Regulations.
Any person who contravenes these provisions is liable to a fine of up to €465.
New payslip regulations
The employer shall be bound to give his employees an itemised payslip either before or on the date when wages are due.
The itemised payslip must contain, among other things, the total wages paid, the number of normal and overtime hours worked and the respective pay rates for Sundays or public holidays if applicable, the annual leave and sick leave balance to date for that calendar year and any breakdown of any bonuses, allowances and commissions received.
Any deduction affected, including national insurance contribution, tax and others, must be included.
If the payslip is not given, employers must present proof which exculpates them from any liability beyond reasonable doubt.
Employers contravening these regulations could be liable to a fine of between €500 and €1,165.

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180821/local/new-vacation-leave-regulations.687264?utm_source=tom&utm_campaign=top5&utm_medium=widget#

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EMPLOYMENT LAW CHANGES

On the eve of the feast of Santa Marija, when shutdowns were at their best, employees were on leave and employers were getting their due share of relaxation, four new legal notices on employment matters were published.
This short article is intended to give a basic knowledge of the new regulations on “annual leave” and “payslips”, while raising some points of constructive criticism for discussion.
LN 271 of 2018 (which repealed LN 38 of 1989 – Weekly Day of Rest and Annual Vacation leave Standard Order) lays down the minimum requirements to the current 200 hours of annual leave entitlement of every employee. Hence, any collective agreement or private employment agreement can stipulate different annual leave rules so long as such agreements are more favourable to the employee.
As of next year, the maximum number of leave days for shutdown purposes shall be of 12 days annually, spread over summer, Christmas, bridge holidays, etc. To this effect, HR personnel need to properly schedule such shutdowns/forced leave in advance and furthermore, should notify the employees by not later than end January of that particular year.
The remaining days of vacation leave of any employee shall be availed of by the employee in agreement with the employer. It is thus advisable that proper leave policies and procedures are in place. Such policies should cater for time frames for leave application submissions and for the approval or otherwise of such applications, identifying the responsible person who is to dis/approve leave, the forms to be filled in, the actual agreement template, etc.
The law now clearly stipulates that once annual vacation leave is agreed to, it cannot be cancelled unilaterally. It can be cancelled only by agreement between both parties.
Some exceptions should have been made by the legislator to cater for urgent unexpected situations which an employer may face and which may require the employer to ask the employee to reconsider the leave entitlement approved. After all, it is acknowledged that the employee has urgent leave entitlements under various other pieces of legislation.
An employee availing herself of maternity leave shall be entitled to annual leave, and hence, such leave will accrue in favour of the employee. Any balance of unavailed-of annual leave at the end of the year in which the maternity leave was availed of, will be carried on to the following calendar year. An employee on maternity leave is now also entitled to an additional day of leave for every public holiday or national holiday not falling on a weekly day of rest.
The legal notice further stipulates that an employee who is on sick leave or injury leave and who is unable to avail himself of vacation leave, shall not lose on his annual vacation leave, and any balance of any such vacation leave at the end of a calendar year shall be automatically transferred onto the following calendar year.
It is interesting to note also that the law now clearly states that, when an employer and employee agree on a vacation leave plan for the employee, that plan is carried on to the following year or is availed of upon the employee’s return if such employee, in the meantime, would have had to avail of any sick leave, injury leave or maternity leave.
The employee will be entitled, upon termination of employment, for compensation of all unavailed-of vacation leave accruing during a period of maternity leave, sick leave or injury leave.
Our legislator has always avoided entering the merits of the cause of sick leave. This issue plays a very relevant role within the context of this regulation, and it should have been given some thought.
Contravening these regulations is a criminal offence with a fine of €465, and the courts are now obliged to order the employer to give any leave entitlements to the employee or the equivalent in monetary compensation where the employment would have been terminated. Leave is money. Will these acquired rights by the employees translate into more costs for our employers?
The least that the employer would possibly have expected is that the curb on abuse of leave entitlements, of whatever nature, is accelerated and made more efficient. It would also have been the opportune occasion for the legislator to make it easier for an employer to terminate employment on disciplinary grounds when and if there is proven abuse of any leave entitlement.
Many practical issues and difficulties can already be predicted. Why, one would ask, would the legislator fail to see them?
The legislator could also have taken the opportunity to facilitate the recovery of overpaid days of leave, work, bonuses or other employee entitlements which create unjustified enrichment in favour of the employee. Rather than keeping the status quo, with the employer having to seek legal redress against his employee, it would have been opportune to, within a proper framework, legislate to facilitate the recovery of such unjustified overpayments.
Which brings us to the “payslip regulations” – since recovery by the employer of any dues by the employee may now well be very well accounted for in the payslip as per the new regulations.
The legal notice establishes, under pain of criminal responsibility and sanction, what the payslip is to include and the clear unequivocal obligation of the employer to give a payslip to the employee with every salary paid.
The name of the employer, name of the employee, address of the employer and the designation of the employee, the total wages paid and the breakdown of such total, the period in respect of which such payment is made, were all pretty much found in properly issued payslips till today.
The law now wants that every payslip includes also the number of normal hours worked, including Sundays and public holidays when these are part of a working schedule, a breakdown of the number of overtime hours or special rate hours worked, the number of annual leave hours availed of and the remaining balance and the number of sick leave availed of during the calendar year, the basic wage received (distinguished from any allowances, bonuses, etc), but also a breakdown of such bonuses and allowances or commissions and all deductions made, including but not limited to tax and NI.
The legal notice states that “any person” (who else if not the employer?) will be subject to a fine of between €500 and €1,165 if found guilty of contravening these regulations. Furthermore, the onus of proof is shifted on the employer who, in case of criminal charges issued against him, has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is not liable at law for “payslip contraventions”. Much against the norms of “presumed innocent until proven guilty” and “the prosecution is to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt”.
Whereas all measures should be taken to curb abuse of employers over their employees and vice-versa, however, shifting this responsibility/onus on the employer can be seen as being one step too far, creating an imbalance rather than a level playing field.
To my knowledge, at the time of writing, employers’ associations have not yet voiced any concerns or opinions.
The scope of this article was intended to be informative but some issues are inevitable. Many practical questions arise. Many practical issues and difficulties can already be predicted. Why, one would ask, would the legislator fail to see them?
What discussions, if any, between the social partners have been held remains unknown to me. If there was lack of discussion and agreement, then there certainly are issues which need to be addressed quickly.
If these regulations are the result of discussions and agreements, then time will tell as to whether these regulations have struck a practical balance between the rights of the employees and the obligations of the employers.
What is certain is that as things stand, employers have some added work to perform before the next shut down, be it Christmas or the next Santa Marija feast.
Ian Spiteri Bailey is an employment and industrial relations lawyer and a workplace mediator.

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180821/opinion/employment-law-changes-ian-spiteri-bailey.687231

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AIRMALTA fails to stop AAOC from Industrial Action

AirMalta asked the Court to prohibit the Association of Airline Operations Controllers (AAOC) from issuing industrial action directives to its members over a claim to a wage rise.

The issue arose when ALL AirMalta employees were given an approx 5% wage increase in line with agreements reached with the Unions late last year. The members of AAOC were not represented by any Union during the negotiations and in March this year requested the same wage increase, claiming that ALL employees, but them (13 in all) were given the increase.

AirMalta refused to give the same increase to these workers and the AAOC registered an industrial dispute threatening industrial action.

AirMalta filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction which was provisionally upheld, but today, 19th July 2018, the First Hall of the Civil Court decided that AirMalta could not stop AAOC from taking industrial action and that on reviewing the facts and hearing submissions, it resulted that AirMalta’s claim to stop AAOC was unfounded at law.

AAOC was represented by its legal counsel Ian Spiteri Bailey.

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180721/local/controllers-strike-looms-at-air-malta.684895

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Alleged Conflict of Interest in Selection Process

Doctor alleges conflict of interest in IVF consultant selection process

Successful applicants both work for specialist who helped pick them

The Public Service Commission and the Health Ministry are being challenged in court over what is claimed to be a “vitiated” selection process for an IVF consultant at Mater Dei Hospital.

In a case instituted by Johann Craus, it has emerged that two doctors placed at the top of the list by a government-appointed selection board work at a private clinic owned by Mark Sant – who was one of the members of the selection board. Dr Sant is an IVF specialist at Mater Dei Hospital.

This is a “textbook case of conflict of interest”, industrial law specialist Ian Spiteri Bailey, who represents Dr Craus, is arguing. The call to appoint a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, with a special interest in assisted reproduction technology, was issued last year. The selection board was chaired by Prof. Yves Muscat Baron and included Dr Sant as a Health Ministry appointee.

After interviews were held with the applicants, the board placed Max Dingli and Olivianne Cassar in the first two places, followed by Dr Craus. The two first-place doctors form part of Veduta Clinic, a private clinic owned by Dr Sant. The court was told that at no stage of the selection process did Dr Sant declare this clear conflict of interest.

Dr Sant knew the two doctors he was interviewing very well – to the extent that he worked with them every day in his private clinic.

Dr Craus highlighted the issue to the Public Service Commission – which is meant to ensure transparency and merit-based appointments – but the PSC justified the process.

“The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology is a relatively small department”, the PSC said. Potential conflicts of interest in Malta are almost inevitable, as “there are a number of private clinics where professionals related to the same speciality work in the same clinic or hospital”.

Dr Craus has asked the court to order a reassessment of the specialist selection.

He is also claiming that other rules related to the selection method were not followed.

The court has provisionally upheld Dr Craus’s request for a prohibitory injunction against the PSC and the Health Ministry until further proceedings are held.

In a decree of the 18th July 2018, the Court decided that there were no grounds to uphold the warrant, although it did state that the PSC was obliged to abide by the rules of natural justice throughout proceedings before it. It also stated that Dr Craus’s objections were legally valid and that at face value, his rights were being prejudiced. It failed to uphold the warrant because Dr Craus had other remedies at law which he could exercise to safeguard his rights at law, which were evidently being breached.

Dr Cruas was represented by Dr Ian Spiteri Bailey.

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Regulating negotiations

Recent developments present us with an opportunity to discuss and evaluate the current situation in industrial relations. The MUT and Alpa issues will be briefly discussed within this context.

The teaching profession, a most noble one, had long wanted to conclude a collective agreement to see its present employment conditions improve.

The new MUT administration hit the ground running and within weeks of taking up office at the helm of the union, the MUT reached agreement with the government for a new sectoral agreement. This was achieved, it seems, following intense negotiations. There were moments of tension, pressure and anxiety, not least when the MUT ordered strike action which was subsequently called off at the last minute.

It then transpired that numerous teachers, and hence union members, were not at all happy with the outcome of the negotiations and reports emerged to the effect that a sizeable number of MUT members had resigned and proceeded with planning the formation of another teachers’ union.

In the meantime, MUT and Mcast failed to conclude their collective agreement, and as I write, Mcast is set to face industrial action ordered by the teachers’ union.

In the meantime, the Air Malta saga has continued. Air Malta negotiated with the four recognised unions and concluded relatively smoothly with three of them. It seems, however, to have met with difficulties where Alpa is concerned – the union representing the airline’s pilots. Following heated discussions, public announcements by politicians involved in the negotiations, threats by either camp, notice of industrial action and prohibitory injunction warrants filed in court – the parties finally reached an agreement which was approved by Alpa members.

These two experiences provide us with the opportunity to reflect on the present situation of industrial relations in Malta, how this is developing and whether the competent authorities and interested parties ought to discuss and agree on improvements in this regard, particularly in terms of the mechanisms of the way our industrial relations are conducted.

Some of the thoughts I share with you from my experience in this field of law are related to the way the parties conduct negotiations, the role of the negotiating committees, the authority to conclude and sign collective agreements and the parameters within which negotiations are conducted.

All unions are regulated by their own statutes. I have seen many a statute throughout my professional career, and I can attest that not all unions have a proper statutory mechanism in place which affords transparency and competency when it comes to negotiations. Maybe, the time has come for unions to review their statutes to make sure that the proper negotiating machinery is in place for all members to observe and accept, in a democratic way.

Traditionally, we have always stated that “where there is unity, there is strength”. This motto has lived with the unions for decades.  Is it still the case? Do workers still feel strong about this? Is ‘individualism’ superseding ‘unity’?

Competent authorities and bodies, not least the government, should invest in providing the necessary training in negotiation skills to all involved personnel.

Many unions and employers’ HR officials do a very valuable job, but negotiation skills, even the basic ones, are many a time, still lacking. Many trade union and employers’ representatives, in my view, still lack the much needed basic negotiation skills which allow for more effective, smoother and expeditious negotiations.

We need to invest in a pool of qualified mediators who can help in the process of negotiations. The importance of mediation in this field has been overlooked for far too many years, and with the help of qualified mediators, industrial relations can avoid reaching the heated levels of negotiations.

I believe that certain parameters for discussion must be divulged from the outset. Should the employer, for example, divulge from the outset the budget, the objectives, the parameters, the plans for its commercial entity throughout the period to be covered by the agreement? Should the union know when and how far it should expect the company to invest in its workforce, be it training, wages, allowances etc?

On the other hand, a trade union should list priorities, and from the feedback it gets from its members over the years, provide the employer with a list of objectives which the union intends to achieve from the agreement to be negotiated.

Our industrial relations often face turbulent moments because a collective agreement lapses and a new collective agreement takes years to be concluded and signed. While the rule that ‘the lapsed collective agreement should in the meantime remain in force’ is valid and ought to be retained, overdue collective agreements should not be prolonged unnecessarily. It should be in the interest of both parties that an agreement be concluded without delay.

The negotiating team for the government and/or any government-owned company should be composed of authoritative people with full and complete leave and mandate to conduct such negotiations. A lot of time is wasted, negotiations become more strenuous, arduous and exhausting when a minister is to be informed on whether any go-between is acceptable or otherwise.

It has further become practice that the responsible cabinet minister sits down at the negotiating table and be directly involved. That state of affairs, I believe, belittles his/her office, possibly places undue pressure on the unions’ representatives and instils in the negotiations, whether we like it or not due to our particular circumstances, the political tint which should be kept completely extraneous from our industrial relations.

The ballot for union members for the approval or otherwise of a draft agreement negotiated by the union representatives should be held only after the draft agreement is duly explained to the members, who are to be allowed to participate in any discussion and vote in respect of the draft agreement. I have recently encountered a situation whereby a union deprived fully paid-up members from attending the meeting and voting simply because they were on notice with the company with which the agreement was to be reached. Such incidents are a cause of concern, create lack of respect and trust in the unions and illustrate bad practice in the field of industrial relations.

Our Industrial Tribunal has constantly advocated that, as far as possible, and unless there exist certain exceptional, established criteria, there should not be a proliferation of unions within the workplace In a recent award, the tribunal appealed to the competent authorities to regulate this matter through legislation. The lack of regulation and clear rules on separate bargaining entities is yet again a serious cause of concern in our industrial relations and should be rectified.

By way of conclusion therefore, training in negotiation skills, openness, set objectives, transparency and better regulation are among the keys towards better industrial relations. The MUT and Alpa issues are but two of many from which lessons should be learnt.

Bad practice today should not be repeated next year or in two or three years’ time. The importance of such improvement lies not only in the positive development of industrial relations as such, but also in the progress of our worker’s rights and conditions, not least and similarly important, to be balanced with better commercial achievements for our employers.

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180125/opinion/Regulating-negotiations-Ian-Spiteri-Bailey.668828#

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UEFA suspends Maltese players – impact on their employment

Is-sospensjoni li ngħataw sitt plejers tat-tim nazzjonali Malti ta’ taħt il-21 sena mill-UEFA fuq akkużi ta’ korruzzjoni sportiva jista’ jkollha impatt fuq l-impjieg personali tagħhom, skont “in-natura tax-xogħol u tal-professjoni tagħhom.” Saħaq dan l-avukat Peter Fenech f’kummenti li għadda lil dan il-ġurnal b’reazzjoni għad-deċiżjoni meħuda mill-UEFA fis-sigħat ta’ qabel.

Hekk kif ilbieraħ ħarġet l-aħbar li sitt membri tat-tim nazzjonali Malti ta’ taħt il-21 sena (Samir Arab, Ryan Camenzuli, Llywelyn Cremona, Luke Montebello, Emanuel Briffa, Kyle Cesare) ingħataw sospensjonijiet mill-Bord tal-Kontroll, l-Etika u d-Dixxiplina tal-UEFA fuq akkużi ta’ korruzzjoni fil-logħob li t-tim Malti lagħab kontra l-Montenegro u r-Repubblika Ċeka (bl-aħħar żewġ atleti, Briffa u Ċesare, jkunu sospiżi għal għomorhom), avviċinajna lil diversi esperti legali fil-qasam tal-isport, sabiex jeżaminaw l-effett li dawn is-sospensjonijiet jistgħu jkollhom. 

Dr Fenech, li kien wkoll eks Vici-President tal-Assoċjazzjoni Maltija tal-Futbol (MFA), tenna li din il-kundanna “hija waħda ta’ natura sportiva, allura ta’ natura ċivili.” 

Fl-istess ħin, l-avukat Ian Spiteri Bailey tenna, li dawn il-proċeduri mhumiex ta’ natura kriminali, “allavolja jista’ jagħti l-kas li jaslu għal proċeduri kriminali. Il-kondotta kriminali personali ta’ persuna,tista tiġi mħammġa biss jekk ikun hemm kundanna tal-Qorti Kriminali.” 

Skont Spiteri Bailey, “id-deċiżjoni tal-Bord tal-UEFA tista tiġi ppreżentata bħala prova quddiem il-Qorti Maltija, però l-akkużat li qiegħed jaffaċja l-akkużi kriminali jista jsaqsi li l-evidenza terġa tiġi ppreżentata mill-ġdid.” 

Mistoqsi jekk din id-deċiżjoni hija waħda li tista tiġi kkunsidrata mill-Qrati Maltin, Fenech ikompli jżid li din id-deċiżjoni tat-tribunal internazzjonali, “għalkemm ta’ natura ċivili, mhijiex sejra awtomatikament tiġi rikonoxxuta mill-Qrati Lokali; però, din hija infurzabbli fil-ġuriżdizzjoni sportiva lokali. Għandha tiġi infurzata, u trid tiġi infurzata.” 

“Id-deċiżjoni (tal-UEFA) biċ-ċert sejra twassal għat-terminu tal-kuntratti ta’ dawn il-persuni relatati mal-isport, u jista jkun li jkollhom impatt fuq l-impjieg personali tagħhom, però jiddipendi fuq in-natura tax-xogħol u tal-professjoni tagħhom.” 

Dan is-sentiment huwa rripetut ukoll minn Spiteri Bailey, li jżid li l-possibilità li wieħed jitneħħa mix-xogħol abbażi ta’ din id-deċiżjoni “ma tistax tiġi eskluża, però tiddipendi ħafna fuq ċerti ċirkostanzi li jikkonċernaw l-impjieg tal-individwu.” 

Fl-aħħar nett, Dr Fenech jirrimarka li allavolja l-każ huwa magħluq, id-deċiżjoni li ttieħdet mill-bord tal-UEFA mhijiex neċessarjament finali: “Dawn l-atleti għandhom dritt ta’ appell quddiem it-Tribunal t’Appell tal- Arbitraġġ, taħt ir-regolamenti tal-Qorti tal-Arbitraġġ tal-Isport.” Dr Spiteri Bailey tenna li hemm diversi liġijiet tal-UEFA fejn jidħlu l-proċeduri t’appell eżistenti, u li huwa ċert “li dawn in-nies sejrin jieħdu l-avviżi legali kollha possibli.” 

http://www.inewsmalta.com/article.php?ID1=62090

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Former permanent secretary, wife, win libel damages

A former permanent secretary within the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs and his wife have won €4,000 in libel damages against l-orizzont over a series of articles featuring the couple published over a three-month span shortly after the 2013 general election.

Christopher Ciantar and his wife Eleanor filed the libel suit over allegations of nepotism made in the series of six articles where readers were told that at the time when Mr Ciantar, a former WasteServ Director, had held the post of Permanent Secretary to then Minister George Pullicino, his wife had enjoyed great benefits as a civil servant.

It was reported that Ms Ciantar, who had joined the public sector as typist back in 1991, and had gradually progressed to the post of principal in 2009, had been assigned the role of manager at ‘Naturalment Malti’, a post allegedly tailor-made for her within the same ministry as her husband.

Other allegations spoke of some €12,000 earned by Ms Ciantar by way of overtime payments. It was also claimed that the permanent secretary’s wife had been awarded a €400 scholarship to follow a Maltese proof reading course at University and also regularly travelled abroad.

Following termination of her employment after the 2013 election, Ms Ciantar moved to a managerial post within the Fisheries Control, a position which she obtained upon due interview procedure.

During the libel proceedings, the only proof brought forward by the newspaper was an affidavit, several parliamentary questions on the issue and a breakdown of overtime payments, in respect of Ms Ciantar.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, observed that when asked about the matter in Parliament, former Minister Leo Brincat, who had taken over the portfolio held by Minister Pullicino, had declared that no action was to be taken against the Ciantar spouses and that “the only advice given to him was that the matter was to end there.”

However, the Labour Party media did not inform its readership about this development, the court observed.

Evidence presented in court showed that when Mr Ciantar was removed from office in October 2013, his wife had secured a three-year contract as manager at Fisheries Control solely on the basis of her competence.

The magistrate said the claims in the articles were spurred by a sense of jealousy and rivalry which hindered the progress of country in a rapidly evolving world.

Although public servants were subject to wider criticism than private individuals, journalists were to ensure that reported facts were true, backed by sufficient evidence, which in this case was missing, the court concluded, declaring the articles defamatory and ordering the newspaper to pay €4,000 in damages to the couple.

Spouses Ciantar were assisted by Dr Ian Spiteri Bailey.

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171123/local/former-permanent-secretary-wife-win-libel-damages.663846

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Court upholds UHM plea and quashes GWU claim

The First Hall of the Civil Court presided by Judge Dr Lawrence Mintoff, in the case GWU vs UHM, MPT Ltd and the Trade Union Registrar, quashed the GWU’c claims whilst upholding a plea raised by UHM Voice of the Workers.

The case filed by the GWU attempted to quash an Industrial Tribunal decision given some 3 years ago and which had given the UHM recognition for bus drivers at MPT.

Subsequently the UHM obtained recognition of the whole of the MPT workforce. At that stage the UHM filed a plea stating that the GWU no longer has interest in this case.

The GWU objected and stated that it still had an interest to quash the Tribunal decision.

The Court upheld the pleas put forward by the UHM and concluded that the GWU’s action was no longer legitimate – hence it quashed the the GWU’s case.

UHM Voice of the Workers was assisted by Dr Ian Spiteri Bailey.

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Titwaqqaf għaqda għall-avukati li jaħdmu fil-liġi tal-impjieg

 

Fl-aħħar jiem twaqqfet f’Malta il-Malta Employment Lawyers Association (MELA), għaqda li tiġbor fi ħdanha avukati li jaħdmu jew għandhom interess fil-qasam tal-liġi tal-impjieg. L-għan tal-għaqda huwa li toffri vuċi magħquda fi proċessi ta’ konsultazzjoni mal-gvern jew awtoritajiet kompetenti oħra, partikolarment fl-applikazzjoni ta’ liġijiet u regoli dwar il-liġi tal-impjiegi.

L-ewwel membri tal-MELA huma l-avukati Matthew Brincat li huwa ukoll iċ-Ċerpersin, Andrew Borg Cardona, Christine Calleja, Charlotte Camilleri, Lorna Mifsud Cachia, Ian Spiteri Bailey, Karl Briffa, Lara Pace u Paul Gonzi.

Sħubija fil-MELA hija miftuħa għal dawk l-avukati kollha li jaħdmu primarjament fil-qasam tal-liġi tal-impjiegi.

Ian Spiteri Bailey gie elett Vici-President tal-M.E.L.A.

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