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The involvement of workers in management decision making processes is known as ‘worker participation’. This goes beyond workers being involved for consultative or informational process, but rather gives them authority to make decisions [1]. This can take the form of either direct or indirect participation. The former refers to individual involvement, whilst in the latter representatives of the individual are involved in the decision making process.

This article focuses on informational and consultation process that workers are involved in during the management process. This will be examined on three levels: cross-industry, sectoral and company levels. It describes both direct and indirect participation forms with a focus on formal participation structures. An overview of methods of worker participation can be found in Methods and effects of worker participation and Occupational safety and health management systems and workers’ participation.

Regulatory framework for worker participation

Employee participation is referred to in Council Directive 2001/86/EC [1] and complements the Statute on the European Company with regard to the involvement of employees. Several models of participation by agreement are possible, the most important is the board-level representation of employees. If there is no arrangement, a set of standard rules on worker involvement becomes applicable.

Information and consultation

At the international level, regulatory provisions on worker participation are contained in Article 19 of ILO Convention C-155 [3]. Article 12 of the (non-binding) ILO Recommendation R-164 [4] describes more specific rights and possibilities for employees and their representatives with respect to worker participation. Recommendation R-129 contains general recommendations on communication between employers and workers [5].

The European Directive 2002/14/EC [6] establishes a general legal framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community. The directive makes it a requirement for employers to inform and consult employees via the workers’ representatives in the company, in three specific areas:

  • the recent and probable development of the undertaking's or the establishment's activities and economic situation;
  • the situation, structure and probable development of employment and any anticipatory measures envisaged;
  • decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or in contractual relations.

The Directive was transposed into Maltese law through Legal Notice 10 of 2006 [7], although the law came into force over a transitional period of three years dependent on the number of workers employed by the company.

The OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC is the main legal source Legislation for worker information and consultation on OSH on a European level [8]. Worker participation is a fundamental part of the OSH management framework promoted in this directive. This Framework Directive was transposed into Malta when the Act for the Promotion of Occupational Health and Safety was repealed and replaced with an updated Act XXVII of 2000 [9], known as the Occupational Health and Authority Act. Currently, this is the foundational piece of national legislation in Malta with regards to occupational health and safety.

Legal Notice 36 of 2003 [10] was passed with the intention of preventing and reducing risks by the exchange and consultation between stakeholders on all information concerning occupational health and safety. It stipulates for the appointment, selection or delegation of a Worker’s Health and Safety Representative or Representatives by the employer.

OSH and worker participation

The Maltese system of social dialogue OSH system at national level - Malta is strongly based on tripartite dialogues at national level, and bipartite dialogues at company level. Malta has an almost absent social dialogue at sectoral level due to the strength and success at company levels, whilst as a small country sector impacts are often addressed from a national perspective [11].

Cross-industry level

In Malta there are three main tripartite consultative bodies formed from by the Employment and Industrial Relations Act to provide consultation to the Maltese government OSH system at national level - Malta: the Employment Relations Board [1], the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development [13], and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority [14]. It is worth noting that other Acts have also established tripartite bodies, including the National Employment Authority and the Malta Statistics Authority [12].

Employment Relations Board

The Employment Relations Board (ERB) was set up through the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, 2002. It serves as a consultative tripartite group to the government on various labour legislation issues [12].

Composition The ERB composes of 12 members and regulars it own procedure [7]. It comprises of a separate independent Chairperson. The Deputy Chairperson, who is also responsible for Employment and Industrial Relations, and three other members are appointed by the government. Four representatives are worker representatives nominated by the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development from its worker representatives sitting on its current Council. The final four representatives are also nominated by the MCESD to represent employers and are chosen from the employer representatives on its current Council.

Formal opinions The Employment Relations Board has to consult on any issues relating to employment at both the national and sectoral level. These include wage payments, overtime, holidays, and work hours. This ensures that Maltese social partners have a direct effect on national legislation [12]. They are also present to advise the Government on any of these issues. Before any legal notices are published they are first discussed within the ERB.

Malta Council for Economic and Social Development

The MCESD (Malta Council for Economic and Social Development) consults and advises the government on sustainable economic and social development pertaining to Malta. It also provides a forum for social dialogue and consultation between social partners and appropriate civil society organisations. It was established in 1988, but was only given legal status through ACT XV (Chapter 431) of the Employment and Industrial Relations Act 2001 [13].

Composition The Council currently comprises of 20 members, headed by a Chairperson appointed by the Prime Minister in consultation with employer and union representatives on the Council. The Deputy Chairperson is the Principal Permanent Secretary of the Civil Service. Four government ministries have their Permanent Secretaries represented on the Council. Employers are represented by the Presidents of the five main employer organisations. The remainder are representatives of the various Maltese trade unions [13].

Formal opinions The Council serves as a tool for analysis and where appropriate, a catalyst for change. It focuses on issues pertaining to economic and social relevance by bringing together the Government, Employers and Workers to ensure that the interests of all parties are represented. Topics discussed by the Council are put forward by Social Partners, and, therefore, consist of contemporary workplace issues. At the same time, the Government through its representatives puts forward discussions that form the basis of national policy.

The Office of Parliament Secretary for Public Dialogue & Information serves as a link between the MCESD and the Maltese Prime Minister. This allows the Prime Minister and his Government to be kept informed on the issues and challenges within the MCESD.

3.1.3 Occupational Health and Safety Authority

The Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) seeks to ensure that OSHA Act XX vii (2002), which sets out the health and safety protection standards, is being adhered to [14].

Composition The OHSA is made up of nine members headed by a Chief Executive. Five are government officials, while two represent the employer’s interests and a further two the interest of workers. They are supported by an executive comprising a further 25 members.

Formal opinions Under the OSHA Act, the OHSA has a number of functions that include: establishing consultative strategies on national policies regarding occupational health and safety; advising the government on occupational health and safety on related regulations; promote the dissemination of information and best practice relating to occupational health and safety; and carry out investigations on accidents or matters relating to occupational health and safety [OHSA Malta]. OHSA’s work is grouped according to five major areas:

  • construction, quarrying and mineral extraction;
  • machinery, equipment, plant and installation including Control of Major Accidents Hazards (COMAH);
  • chemical and biological agents;
  • radiation protection;
  • general and accident investigation.

Sectoral level

In Malta, formal sectoral social dialogue, or sector wide bargaining does not exist [11]. This stems from the feeling that in Malta there is little need for social dialogue at the sectoral level as the company based bargaining system is sufficient [2]. There has only been one collective work agreement that can be considered sectoral. This was negotiated between the General Workers’ Union and a group of motor garage owners in the 1970s, but has periodically been updated.

However, there are provisions for change in the future. For example, the Malta Transport Act (Article 30) specifies the creating of a tripartite body within the public sector [16]. The Board would consist of the Chairperson of the Malta Transport Authority along with a representative of employers and an employee representative. As far as can be determined, this board is not yet in existence.

Informal Social Dialogue

A number of reasons encourage this informal dialogue to occur [15]. Firstly, two of Malta’s main trade unions are set up according to different trades and sectoral sections, each with its own executive committee. Crucially though, Malta’s small size allows for high social cohesion across companies. When negotiations occur between representatives of two parties at the company level, they are aware of their responsibility to other similar companies in the same sector. Consequently, agreements on standards, rates or procedures are often informally applied to the companies. At the same time, this system allows for customised solutions to be applied to each company instead of a blanket application applicable to all. Finally, both the ERB and MCESD are tasked with consulting at employment issues on both the national and sectoral level.

=Employer Organisations


Five organisations represent employers in Malta: the Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise, the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, the Federation of Industry, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants’ Association, and the Malta Employers’ Association. All five are legally constituting bodies and are involved in social dialogue to a various degree. Despite this, only the last group- the Malta Employers’ Association is associated with collective bargaining.

Malta Employers Association The Malta Employers Association (MEA) is a constituted body that unites employers across sectors and industry in Malta [17]. It serves as a trade union for employers, providing advisory services on the rights as employers as well as their obligations to their employees. The MEA are also the leading lobby group for employers in Malta in relation to Industrial Relations and Human Resources issues. They also provide representation at national level, through the MCESD and the ERB; as well at an international stage with memberships with the ILO and the International Organisation of Employers. As mentioned before, the also represent their members at industrial tribunals and are involved collective bargaining.

Sector Groups All members in the MEA are allocated to one of 10 sectoral groups [17]: banking, insurance and finance; beverages, food and tobacco; construction, electrical, engineering and metal; electronics and pharmaceuticals; general manufacturing; Hospitality, tourism and travel; transport, communications, shipping and freight; Wholesale, retail and other commercial services; government authorities; and professional services.

Every two years elections are held within each Sector group to form a Group Committee to represent the sector. The Committee includes a Chairperson and two members who meet at least once every three months, with meetings for the whole Group held when deemed necessary. The Sector Chairperson also represents the sector at the Council.

Despite the existence of Sectoral Groups [15], collective negotiations are not done at this level, but rather at an Association level. Sectoral Groups are present to provide information and for consultation. They can however create sub-committees to address issues that are being faced by the Sector.

Trade Union Representatives

Of the various Trade Unions, only two are involved at Sectoral Level, in that they have Sectoral Groups: the General Workers’ Union (GWU) and the United Workers’ Union (UHM). Both are legally constituted bodies which are involved in collective bargaining, although as mentioned before this predominately occurs at company level [15].

General Workers’ Union The General Workers’ Union (GWU) a confederate of eight sections [18], which together forms the largest trade union in Malta. The GWU is recognised by the employees representation delegation at the International Labour Organisation, and the European Trade Union Confederation.

The eight sections of the GWU are: metal; and construction; professional and services; government and public entities; manufacturing and SME; hospitality and food; chemical and printing; technology, electronics and communications; and maritime and aviation.

Each of the eight sections has its own executive committee, which is fairly autonomous from other sections. It has a small group of full time executive staff are represented on the GWU’s National Executive Council. Sectoral Groups commonly carry out a numerous formal collective agreements with individual companies, and where appropriate informal sectoral bargaining is conducted by Sector Groups [15].

United Workers’ Union The United Workers’ Union (UHM) is an affiliate with the CMTU (the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions), and along with the GWU has representatives on the MCESD [19].

The UHM has seven sections, they are: government employees; health services; public entities; port and transport; manufacturing, IT and private sector; tourism and services, and pensioners.

Similar to the GWU, each section contains its own Executive Committee, which governs the section within the policies of the UHM. General meetings are convened twice a year to elect officials into the section. Although comprising of different sectors, collective work agreements are normally done on a company level [15].

Company level

At company level, indirect participation occurs through the very influential trade unions. The social dialogue across all levels is fundamentally built upon the relationship between employers and trade unions at company level. Workers representation through the transposing of Directive 2002/14/EC provides representation for those who are not in trade unions, as trade unions representatives act on behalf of their members [7]. However, neither the trade unions nor worker representation specifically focus on OSH matters, but rather consider them alongside other workplace and employment issues [11].

Indirect participation

Workers Representation

Regulatory framework Legal Notice 10 of 2006 came into force stipulating the representation of employees for information and consultation, with or without the presence of trade union representatives [7]. This was implemented across a three year period, with representatives appointed in organisations with 150 or more employees by 13 January, 2006. For organisations between 100 and 149 employees it had to be implemented by 23 March 2007, and for those between 50 and 99 employees by 23 March, 2008. This is applicable for all companies not limited to the private sector, regardless whether they are for profit or not.

Composition The council consists of employer and employee representatives. Employee representation is based on trade union membership within the company. If all workers are members of a trade union, then representatives of the trade union serves as representative of the workers. If more than one trade union is present than each trade union will provide representatives [7].

If some workers are members of a trade union, the trade union will provide a representative for these workers. For workers not members of a trade union, elections are held to select or appoint representatives to represent each of the unrepresented categories. If none of the workers are members of a trade union, then elections will be held to select or appoint representatives to represent all workers in the company.

Duties Representatives are elected for a period of three years, unless they resign beforehand.

The employer is obliged to provide ‘the information and consultation representatives with information on the recent and probably development of the undertaking’s activities and economic situation. The situation, structure and probably development of employment within the undertaking and on any anticipatory measures envisaged, in particular, where there is a threat to employment within the undertaking; and, information and consultation on decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or in contractual relations’ (pg. 222) [7].

This information must be given at such time, in such fashion and with such content as are appropriate to enable, in particular, the information and consultation representatives to conduct an adequate study and, where necessary, to prepare for consultation (pg. 222) [7].

Meetings The must be a minimum of one meeting within six months of the previous meeting being held.

Success The strength of the employer-employee relationship with regards to employee participation is seen in the results of a survey exploring social dialogue in European workplaces [20]. It showed that Malta was the only country where a 100% of representatives felt that employers made a sincere effort to resolve any conflict and problems with employees, higher than the EU average of 83%. On the other hand, about 25% of employers felt that did not want to deal directly with employees in Malta when making decisions, which is lower than the EU average of 41%.

Example Although most Maltese companies do not have formal work councils, one example can be drawn from Air Malta [21]. Here, the consultation body is known as the Central Representative Council (CRC). Topics for the CRC’s monthly meetings include financial reviews, staff training, marketing distribution and outsourcing contracts among other items that impact company and employees. These meetings are typically chaired by Air Malta’s CEO, and are attended by company management and CRC members. However, most employee issues such as collective bargaining, company restructuring and recession-related developments are left under the purview of the trade unions.

Trade union delegation

Trade unions play a very important role in the Maltese social dialogue, as it boasts one of the most unionised economies in the Europe [11] with 48% of workers unionised in 2007 [22]. Trade unions in Malta are set up to bargain and negotiate at company level, with shop stewards serving as the bridge between trade unions and employers. They are pivotal and have an elevated status within the workplace as due to the lack of committees they are often the sole worker representatives [23]. They are also very active at national level through the MCESD and the OHSA. Worker representatives are only elected or appointed in the absence of trade union representatives [11].

Regulatory framework The Employment and Industrial Relations Act 2002 [24] builds on previous legislation that regulates trade unions in Malta. Power to regulate the trade unions is held by the Director of Employment and Industrial Relations, who also serves as the Register of Trade Unions. For a trade union to be recognised they need to have: at least seven members; an endorsed statute; annually audited accounts; annually updated membership lists; and allows the Register access to its membership records.

Within the company level, recognition for trade union is not legally defined. For the purposes of collective bargaining, recognition of claims to represent a group is given when a trade union represents a simple majority (50%+1).

Legal Notice 10 of 2006 [7], which transposes EU Directive 2002/14/EC stipulates that elections/appointments for information and consultative representatives are not applicable for trade union members as they will be represented by trade union representatives in the company.

Powers The Conditions of Employment and Regulation Act 1952, and the Industrial Relations Act 1976 were passed to regulate the trade unions involvement in the private sector in Malta [25]. Trade unions were given a stronger standing through the setting up of the Malta Council for Economic Development (the predecessor of the MCESD) when tripartite social dialogue was institutionalised. This tripartite arrangement set the scene for the creation of the Employment and Industrial Relations Act 2002 [11]

Consultation In Malta, basic conditions of employment, and the minimum wage are established by law. However, these can only be passed after consultation with the ERB and MCESD at national level, both of which include trade union representatives.

When legislation does come into force, it sets the minimum conditions in the workplace that affects those who are not represented by the unions [11]. At the company level, trade unions then seek to build on these minimum requirements in the best interests of their members should the need arise. Trade unions are also involved in bipartite collective negotiations with employers on all other non-law related work conditions. However, collective bargaining normally occurs when more than 50% of employees in the company, or in the section, are in the trade unions [25].

Prevalence & Problems A Eurofound Survey [26] found that Malta had the third lowest levels of workplace representation in Europe with 14% of establishments having representatives. Only Portugal and Greece had a lower prevalence. This translates to about 41% of Maltese employees having representation. In comparison, the EU average shows 32% of companies and 62% of employees have representatives. Moreover, Malta’s representatives came solely from trade union representatives, with no contribution from works councils.

Health and Safety Representatives

Workers in Malta have the right to have a Health and Safety Representative for employers to inform and consult with on matters pertaining to health and safety [10]. Representatives also serve to channel information and concern from employees to employers.

Regulatory framework Legal Notice 36 of 2003 (General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations) regulates the procedure of appointment/ selection of a Work Health and Safety representative. This revolves around the principle that representatives should be appointed by workers themselves. Furthermore, the framework specifies that every worker has a duty to co-operate with the employer and with the Health and Safety Representative or Representatives at the workplace on all matters pertaining to health and safety [10].

Appointment of Representative Representatives are chosen and appointed from amongst the workers themselves by the workers. There is no fixed ratio of representatives to employees and this is for discussion between employer and employees. If for whatever reason workers are not able to choose a representative for them then the employer will appoint one or more persons to act as representatives.

Rights and Responsibilities The representatives act with the sole objective of safeguarding workers health and safety, and cannot be involved in any work which might be a conflict of interest with this regard. Furthermore, neither workers nor their representatives can be placed at a disadvantage due to their involvement in health and safety, and must be provided with adequate time off, rumination, and facilities/equipment to conduct their duties.

Workers and their representatives have the right to raise any concerns, and to make proposals on matters related to the health, welfare and safety of the workers to their employer. This can include issues surrounding risk assessments, appointment of external experts, occupational accidents, first aid and fire-fighting, and training amongst others.

Workers’ representatives also have the right to request employers to take appropriate measures and develop or submit solutions on the removal or mitigation of hazards faced by workers. They also have the right to take up issues with OHSA if they feel the issue warrants it.

Prevalence In terms of prevalence of representatives, a Eurofound study [26] revealed that about 8% establishments in Malta had both a trade union and a health and safety representative. A further 20% of establishments have only health and safety representatives. A different survey [27] found that 52% of Maltese enterprises had formal health and safety representatives, although this was still lower than the EU-27 average of 75%. It also showed that 79% of establishments in Malta had some participatory involvement for employees in OSH matters which just below the 83% EU-27 average.

The European Survey on New and Emerging risks [27] showed that 66% of Maltese health and safety representatives indicated they did not have enough time for their responsibilities. This is the highest percentage, more than double French representatives where 32% of them felt that way and EU-27 average of 17%. It is worth noting a caveat inserted by the authors of that survey that the high figures for Malta could be inflated due to a small sample size. The same survey also showed that 72% of establishments in Malta address OSH issues in the workplace because of concerns raised by employees and their representatives, slightly lower than the EU-27 average of 76%. However, only 31% of Maltese establishments address psychosocial issues due to concerns raised by their workforce, in comparison to the 36% average of EU-27.


[1] European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), Home page. Retrieved on 7 June 2013, from:

[2] Council Directive 2001/86/EC of 8 October 2001 supplementing the Statute for a European company with regard to the involvement of employees, OJ L 294, 10.11.2001, p. 0022 – 0032. Available at:

[3] ILO Convention concerning Occupational Safety and Health and the working environment C155, 1981. Available at:

[4] ILO Recommendation concerning Occupational Safety and Health and the Working Environment R 164, 1981. Available at:

[5] ILO Recommendation concerning communications between management and workers within the undertaking R 129, 1967. Available at:

[6] Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community - Joint declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on employee representation, OJ L 080 , 23.03.2002, p. 0029 – 0034. Available at:

[7] Legal notice 10 of 2006 (Employment and Industrial Act). Available at:

[8] Framework Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, OJ L 183, 29.6.1989, p. 1–8. Available at:

[9] Chapter 424 of 2000 on Occupational Health and Safety Authority (Act XXVII). Available at:

[10] Legal notice 36 of 2003 (General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations). Available at:

[11] Baldacchino, G., Report 110: Trade unions in Malta, European Trade Union Institute, 2009. Available at:

[12] Zammit, E.,. Capacity building for social dialogue in Malta, Eurofound, 2006. Available at:

[13] Malta Council for Economic and Social Development. About MCESD. Retrieved 28 January 2013 from:

[14] Occupational Health and Safety Malta. About Us. Retrieved 28 January, 2013 from:

[15] Zammit, E. . Capacity building for social dialogue at sectoral and company level- Malta, Eurofound, 2007. Available at:

[16] Rizzo, S. & Debono, M, Malta. In A. Chaidron and D. Rochet (Eds.) Monographs on the Situation of Social Partners in the New Member States and Candidate Countries: Road Transport Sector, 2004. Available at:

[17] Malta Employers Association. MEA Statute. Retrieved 28 January 2013 from:

[18] General Workers Union. Who We Are. Retrieved 28 January 2013 from:

[19] Union Haddiema Maghqudin. About UHM. Retrieved 28 January 2013 from:

[20] Eurofound, Workplace social dialogue in Europe: An analysis of the European Company Survey 2009, 2012. Available at:

[21] Eurofound, ‘Malta: EIRO CAR on ‘the effect of the Information and Consultation Directive on Industrial Relations in the EU Member States five years after its transposition’, 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2013, from:

[22] Fulton, L., Worker Participation in Malta-Trade Unions, 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2013 from:

[23] European Commission, Employee representatives in an enlarged Europe, 2008. Retrieved January 31st, 2013 from:

[24] Employment and Relations Act 2002. Available at:

[25] Baldacchino, G. & Gatt, R., Thirteen years later: Trade unions in the Maltese private sector revisited. Bank of Valletta Review, 40, 2009, pp. 29-45.

[26] Eurofound, Employee representation at establishment level in Europe: European Company Survey 2009, 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2013, from:

[27] EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks: Managing Safety and Health at Work, 2010. Retrieved January 31st, 2013 from:

Further reading

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER): Managing safety and health at work, European Risk Observatory Report, 2010. Available at:

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Worker representation and consultation on health and safety: An analysis of the findings of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), 2012, Available at:

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012-13 – Working together for risk prevention, 2012,

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Health and safety at work in SMEs: Strategies for employee information and consultation, 2010. Available at: [tp://]

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Social dialogue and working conditions, 2011. Available at:

Eurofound - European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Workplace employee representation in Europe, 2012. Available at:

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Ellen Schmitz-Felten

Juliet Hassard

Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom.