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MaltaToday 9 March 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 9 MARCH 2022 2 NEWS ELECTION 2022 LAURA CALLEJA THE Nationalist Party is propos- ing an increase in workers' social security contributions, Econ- omy Minister Silvio Schembri claimed yesterday. Speaking at a press confer- ence alongside candidate Jon- athan Attard, the minister said that one of the PN's proposals in its electoral manifesto, states that "for pensions to remain sustainable, the private sector must build a new fund for pen- sions in the country." He said that other countries had implemented such a pro- posal, including the UK, which has businesses pay an addition- al 8% contribution towards all private employee pensions. Schembri said that other coun- tries also have similar systems with a 10% contribution. The economy minister said that with a rate set at 10%, a business that employs 10 work- ers with an annual salary of €20,000 would have to pay an additional €20,000 themselves during the year in pension con- tributions. He said this was just a rehash of a PN proposal from 2017, which in reality would mean an increase in social security con- tributions. The economy minister al- so accused PN leader Bernard Grech of sneaking this propos- al into the manifesto without explaining it to the public. "Why isn't this proposal clear? Why is the PN attempting to hide it rather than explain it?" Schembri questioned. He added that the govern- ment increased pensions year on year without placing addi- tional burdens on businesses and workers. Attard criticised the PN's economic incentives, adding that the party has not answered how they will calculate wheth- er a company is compliant with the ESG principles. Attard said that while La- bour was not against adopting ESG frameworks, they must be based on a model which works for Malta. He said that any changes need to be done "shoulder to shoul- der" with businesses. "We want to remain pro-market and not force businesses to have to deal with more bureaucracy," he said. LUKE VELLA WAGES for nurses have to im- prove to compensate for the risks and responsibilities that come with the job, Bernard Grech has told nurses' representatives. The Nationalist Party leader said that rather than incentivise Steward Healthcare, a future PN government will incentivise the profession. "These are indispen- sable professions, and conditions and wages have to improve... We have to address the issue at source and although foreign workers are needed, they can't be the order of the day," Grech said. He argued that wages had to im- prove. "It is no longer attractive to work in the field, so therefor the priority has to be the sectoral agreement. We have to anticipate certain problems and govern- ment can't keep on managing by crisis." Grech was discussing the short- age of nurses at public hospitals with representatives of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) at their new headquar- ters in Qormi on Tuesday morn- ing. PN candidate Stephen Spiteri, a doctor himself, said the public medical service has taken a hit, due to lack of infrastracture and the long "exagerated" hours that nurses have to work. MUMN President Paul Pace stressed that Malta is dealing with a severe shortage of nurses and other medical staff. "Each ward is supposed to have six nurses but right now we're lucky if we have three." Pace said that as a result, many nurses can't take any leave or end up having to cancel it. According to Pace in 2021, there was an "exodus" of nurses due to the migration of nurses from third countries. He said that around 400 of such nurses left Malta during the year, whilst an- other 100 young Maltese moved abroad or to other economic sec- tors. Pace emphasised that the sec- toral agreement must make it a priority to focus on staff reten- tion and attracting youths to the profession. "It hurts when nurses and other medical professionals leave the job. This has to stop im- mediately and measures have to be taken," Pace said. MUMN suggested that similar to a scheme launched during a PN administration, student nurs- es should get a minimum wage instead of stipends. "You can pro- vide no medical service without nurses. We are now operating at a bare minimum." He said the constant watch ser- vice at Mount Carmel and Karin Grech hospitals was discontin- ued, and it was replaced with contract workers. MUMN general secretary Col- in Galea said the privatisation agreement of the three hospitals with VGH and later Steward did not help and added uncertainty. "MUMN at first was not against the privatisation deal, as we had made certain that the management would remain. Today there are many issues of human resources, as it is difdi- cult to eatablish whether Stew- ard or the government are re- sponsible." Silvio Schembri accuses PN of wanting to increase social security contributions Bernard Grech tells nurses' union wages have to improve PN leader Bernard Grech with MUMN representatives

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