Health division denies descrimination -The Times - 16/7/2005

link to article in The TIMES

Health Division denies discriminating between doctors
The Medical Association of Malta has warned the health authorities it intends to take every possible measure to ensure the Health Division complies with EU and local legislation.

MAM was referring to a reply to a parliamentary question by Labour MP Adrian Vassallo, in which Health Minister Louis Deguara said that one particular doctor was given a much higher salary than Maltese doctors. The minister, MAM said, was referring to a doctor of Maltese birth who held a British passport and received an annual salary of Lm45,000.

This doctor, MAM said, did not pay tax on this amount and in effect, he was receiving the equivalent of Lm60,000 gross, six times the amount his Maltese colleagues were earning for the same work.

"Why is it that the Tax Compliance Unit is pursuing other doctors to pay tax while a privileged person with a much higher income is exempted from paying tax?"

MAM said it was also contesting the fact that certain posts were not being publicly advertised and a selection board was not being appointed as required by Maltese and EU law.

"The Health Division just cannot pick and choose a doctor and offer him vastly superior remuneration," it said.

MAM said that, on the other hand, Eastern European doctors were being led into a tax-free trap which denied them their social benefits.

Although it was true that the "income tax exemption" led to a salary roughly equivalent to that of a Maltese doctor they were being led into a trap which denied them a pension or access to social support once they stopped working. This was illegal and contrary to the EU regulation of free movement of labour. It called on the Health Division to immediately comply with Maltese and EU law and warned of "serious consequences" if such irregularities were not corrected as soon as possible.

However, the Health Division denied that it was breaching any local or EU law or job regulation or that it was discriminating.

It said that since the talks on the renewal of doctors' working conditions had not yet been concluded, it was decided that fixed term contracts which expired or were due to expire soon should be extended for a year under the current conditions.

This applied not just to the doctor MAM was referring to but also to other directors within the division.

The conditions of work of the doctor mentioned by MAM, the division said, had been established 10 years ago and had remained the same. His tax was paid by the Health Division as part of the original contract so any reference to the Tax Compliance Unit was out of place.

Referring to the contracts of foreign doctors, the division said these included a fixed salary which also included free medical care for the doctor and his family, an expatriate allowance of Lm1,400 a year and a return air ticket for the doctor and his family once a year.

So there was no discrimination since the remuneration package was virtually equivalent to that of a Maltese doctor.

Regarding the fact that the foreign doctors did not pay national insurance in Malta or in their own country, talks were currently being held between the Management Personnel Office and the Finance Ministry, the division said.

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