2.1 What are the rules relating to trade union recognition?
Trade unions and employers’ associations are formed in order to protect the collective interest of their members, particularly in the event of collective bargaining. Although the EIRA regulates the status, registration and conduct of trade unions and employers’ associations, it does not prescribe or regulate trade union recognition at the workplace. Following the enactment of the Recognition of Trade Unions Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 452.112, a trade union may be recognised by an employer as the sole collective bargaining union at the place of work, following a verification process which must be carried out by the Director of Employment and Industrial Relations in accordance with the main rules established by these regulations.
2.2 What rights do trade unions have?
In virtue of the Recognition of Trade Unions Regulations, trade unions have the right to request recognition from the employer, as the sole collective bargaining union, in respect of employees of the same employer. Once recognised, trade unions shall have the right to negotiate and carry out collective bargaining with the employer in question. In fact, the EIRA recognises that as an association of persons, a trade union is capable of entering into contracts. Furthermore, it is also within the right of trade unions to act in contemplation or furtherance of trade disputes. Subject to certain restrictions imposed by law, a trade union is also capable of suing and being sued.
2.3 Are there any rules governing a trade union’s right to take industrial action?
Although there is currently no Maltese law which governs the right of a trade union to take industrial action, the EIRA grants statutory protection to trade unions and all of its members, from liability when taking industrial action pursuant to a trade dispute.
2.4 Are employers required to set up works councils? If so, what are the main rights and responsibilities of such bodies? How are works council representatives chosen/appointed?
The European Works Council (Further Provisions) Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 452.107, provides that work councils shall be set up by a community-scale undertaking or community-scale group of undertakings. A community-scale undertaking is defined as an undertaking with at least 1,000 employees within the member states and at least 150 employees in each of at least two member states. Community-scale group of undertakings means a group of undertakings of at least 1,000 employees within the member states, at least two group undertakings in different member states and at least one group undertaking with at least 150 employees in one member state and at least one other group undertaking with at least 150 employees in another member state. The scope of the work councils is for its members to collectively have the right to promote the interests and improve the right to information and consultation of the employees of the community-scale undertaking or community-scale group of undertakings. A Special Negotiating Body is to be set up to negotiate with the central management regarding the establishing of a European Works Council or a procedure for informing and consulting employees.The members of the Special Negotiating Body shall be elected or appointed in proportion to the number of employees employed in each member state by the community-scale undertaking or community-scale group of undertakings, by allocating in respect of each member state one seat per portion of employees employed in that member state amounting to 10% or a fraction thereof, of the number of employees employed in all the member states taken together.
2.5 In what circumstances will a works council have co-determination rights, so that an employer is unable to proceed until it has obtained works council agreement to proposals?
Works councils do not have any co-determination rights under any circumstances.
2.6 How do the rights of trade unions and works councils interact?
Whilst both trade unions and works councils have the right to represent employees, trade unions seem to enjoy further protection under Maltese law, particularly when it comes to being safeguarded from liability in case of industrial actions taken due to a trade dispute.
2.7 Are employees entitled to representation at board level?
Under Maltese law, employees do not have a right to board-level representation, and such right may only be granted at the discretion of the employer.
This article was first published in ICLG – Employment & Labour Law and may be accessed on the ICLG to Employment and Labour Law 2023 publication.
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