international labour conference

An increasingly interconnected world facing common challenges requires a global outlook framed by strong relationships and deep social dialogue, according to Joseph Farrugia, who dismissed talk of a “new normal” with some form of stability, saying that the experience of the past years points towards an ever-shifting environment with change being the only constant.

The Malta Employers Association director-general was addressing delegates at the 110th International Labour Conference in Geneva. The conference, which runs until Saturday, is organised by the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency.

Mr Farrugia’s hard-hitting intervention focused on the need for a cohesive approach to the issues faced by workers as well as other stakeholders, recognising that developments in one area “send ripples across the economic, socio-political and natural environment that connects all of us”.

He praised Malta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that “well-designed interventions” manged to retain people in employment. These, he continued, emerged from social dialogue, which will continue to play a key role in addressing many issues arising in the labour market, amongst them a shortage of labour in many sectors, the need for economic transformation, digitalisation, emerging forms of employment relationships and work organisation.

“Social partners need to share a common effort to ensure that these transitions work in the mutual interests of employees and companies,” he said, pointing to inflation as an “immediate threat” that, while softened by Government intervention, is still being felt by enterprises in the rising costs of material and wages.

Mr Farrugia explained that the openness of the Maltese economy, and its exposure to international events, meant that a global perspective was crucial to the success of any intervention.

He also warned against the perception of events from a regional perspective, and recalled words included in the ILO’s 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia, which stated that “poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere”, pointing to mass migration across the Mediterranean to support the argument.

The Sustainable Development Goals set up in 2015 by the UN General Assembly, together with the ILO Centenary Declaration, provide optimistic and interlinked goals that shine against a bleak backdrop of contemporary realities,” he said, noting that more people are living in extreme poverty and experiencing hunger than there were a few years ago. “The SDGs offer a beacon of hope for all humanity to achieve a better and sustainable future.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Social Dialogue Andy Ellul similarly highlighted the fast pace of change in the economy in general and employment relations in particular, and touted the Maltese Government track record in saving some 25,000 jobs during the pandemic.

Dr Ellul added that the Government is committed to continue working improving social inclusion and social mobility, despite the difficult environment caused by the war in Ukraine and the pandemic.

“Although global conditions do not make these goals easy, we will continue doing all we can to build a better future,” he said.

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