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MW 4 April 2018

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maltatoday WEDNESDAY 4 APRIL 2018 8 News MATTHEW VELLA PRIME Minister Joseph Mus- cat said a proposal for Mal- tese migrants abroad to vote in general elections in their respective embassies, will be discussed in a forthcoming constitutional convention. Muscat told Australian pub- lic radio service SBS Maltese that he was confident that agreement could be reached between all parties. "The suggestions from the Council for Maltese Living Abroad are not gathering dust on a shelf, and in the consti- tutional reforms that will also discuss electoral laws, we will consider allowing Maltese who qualify for the vote to cast their ballot in their em- bassies without the need to come to Malta to vote," Mus- cat said. Malta's electoral law dis- qualifies citizens from voting in general elections if they have not resided in Malta for at least six months in the 18 months immediately preced- ing national elections. In the past political parties actively petitioned the courts to strike off expatriate voters, but proving a Maltese citizen has not spent six months on the island has become much more difficult since Malta joined the EU and passport control has been lifted. Labour had pledged in its 2013 manifesto that it would allow expats to vote in their countries of residence with- out having to fly down to Malta. The PN and Alternat- tiva Demokratika had come up with similar promises. But the electoral laws have not yet been changed, with a snap election held in June 2017 that raised concerns about the ability to fly Maltese expats to the island to vote. In 2015, the government spent €1.1 million flying 1,346 citizens to the island to cast their vote in the 2015 spring hunting referendum, on top of the €70 paid by each voter for the flights. In 2014, the European Com- mission identified Malta as one of five member states ap- plying laws that "lead to the loss of voting rights" for its citizens simply because they are exercising their right to free movement in the EU. The Commission said it was not fair that these citi- zens should lose their right to participate in the democratic process of their own country simply because they are living in another EU member state. It invited Malta to enable na- tionals abroad to retain their right to vote if they demon- strate a continuing interest in the political life of their country, including by apply- ing to remain on the electoral register. Voting could be done electronically. I n the 21st century, mankind is facing the fourth industrial revolution, one that is characterised by robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles. Behind all this one notices that machines are slowly replacing workers, such as the check-in desks at Heathrow airport and the various McDonald's computerised cashiers found all over Malta. While the digital age signifies mankind's progress, workers are struggling to keep up with this rapid change in their lifetime, where continuous retraining is needed to hold a job. Something that is emerging in today's labour market is work-home encroachment. This is a troubling by-product of the digital revolution. "At home, the workspace can be the kitchen or the bathroom or the bedroom. We shift from a work email to a personal WhatsApp to a Facebook picture to a professional text - all on the same tool," says Linh Le, a partner at Elia management consultants in Paris. "You're at home but you're not at home, and that poses a real threat to relationships," she says. Le says the businesses she advises are increasingly aware of the dangers to staff. The most extreme threat is so-called burnout which she describes as "physical, psychological and emotional distress caused by a total inability to rest? A clear example are Maltese educators who don't just work school hours but end up working countless hours back at home. The introduction of LOF's (Learning Outcomes Framework) will increase drastically this work-life unbalance with additional working hours at home, resulting in increased stress within educators' families. Trade unions such as UPE (Union of Professional Educators - Voice of the Workers) & UHM Voice of the Workers have such problems within their sight and are working to create a work-life balance for their members. It is for this reason that forward-looking unions are continuously evolving as to counteract these challenges within the workplace. Gone are the days whereby employees seek a job-for-life. Instead they do expect more work-life balance. The problem lies whereby traditional employers still view the old eight-hours- a-day, five-days-a-week as the proof that workers are getting their job done. On the other hand, other employees are replaced by the ever-growing robots, computers and artificial intelligence. In this setting, the role of the trade union is twofold. The first is that during negotiations with the management, unions introduce ways and means for the employees to be offered training so that they are up to date with today's job market needs. The second is to insist more on work-life balance measures. Policies such as the right to disconnect from your workplace are of utmost importance in today's world. Moreover, the mantra that the eight-hours- a-day, five-days-a-week is still relevant in every setting including office work and computerised work must be eradicated once and for all. With today's technology, one can easily measure productivity through other tools and let employees work more freely as long as deadlines are met. Another issue which unions are tackling is the gender pay gap and help in keeping women in the labour market. While one will not find a difference in pay gap between genders in the public sector and public service, an issue which has been ongoing is the fact that reduced-hours workers (which are typically mothers taking care of their children) lose their seniority due to working less hours than their peers. While it is understandable that, until the system whereby a person is paid by the hour is changed, a person on reduced hours is given a pro-rata pay for the hours worked, it is less understandable that a person who is on reduced hours is less eligible for promotions and her salary is not increased as quickly as her peers who are not on reduced hours. The employer has to realise that a person on reduced hours is on reduced hours for a reason – to take care of their children and not to perform some other job, and it is for this reason that these persons should not be penalised for this. These are some of the issues which the unions are tackling in today's setting. Such issues will surely continue to increase and it is for this reason that forward-looking unions are becoming more relevant every day. Gian Paul Gauci and Graham Sansone represent C.M.T.U. Member organisations of the National Youth Council (KNZ) have been invited to submit opinion articles on topics affecting youths today, to its member organisations. The contents of the article do not necessarily refl ect the opinion of the Council. The role of trade unions in today's shifting world Gian Paul Gauci & Graham Sansone Right for Maltese abroad to vote in embassies to be decided in constitutional convention Maltese Prime Minister says electoral reform in forthcoming constitutional convention will propose enfranchisement of voters abroad

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