Fabian Demicoli

The Cassano vs Calamatta case

GRTU – Malta Chamber of Small and
Medium Enterprises expresses its great concern at the outcome of the case
Cassano vs Calamatta and the conclusions reached so far through the sentence of
Judge Dr. Tonio Mallia on 7th August, 2004.

GRTU’s concerns are as
follows:
1. Employers are already extremely over-burdened by responsibilities
and these responsibilities extend equally to all employers whether employing one
person or 1000 persons. Maltese legislation does not provide any threshold. Over
the last years the amount of regulations being health and safety, labour laws,
planning, environmental standards, whatever, have increased enormously and no
single small employer can remotely absorb the knowledge of all these laws and
regulations let alone face the cost of their implementation. GRTU’s persistent
request for business impact assessments have consistently fallen on deaf
ears.

2. Besides the numerous government departments and public
authorities who impose regulations right, left and centre and the brigade of
inspectors these rules are creating, businesses have to watch out also for Court
Decisions. When the law does not specifically define the responsibility or
limits to the responsibility of employers, then the Court can make its
interpretation and in our case Court decisions are effectively additional forms
of regulation building as Court judgements are taken as sacrosanct.

3.
This case still awaits an Appeal Court sentence. As matters now stand, the
situation is very serious. The Court has found that an employer is guilty of
causing or leading to the cause of death of its employee and is liable to
damages if he/she has neglected to provide sufficient security and protection
for its employees against eventual aggressors and that it is the responsibility
of an employer to ensure the safety of employees against aggressors. Now this is
a tremendous responsibility on all shop-owners, garages, bars, restaurants and
all small service providers. What are the acceptable measures? All these
businesses and public places are all trying to be as friendly as possible to
visiting clients. Most shops are too small to have a back exit. Most offices are
on different floors. How on earth can any employer provide against aggressors?
And if they were able to, at what expense? And who is able to fork out the
expense?

4. GRTU says this while emphasising its concern at the
increasing level of aggression against shop-owners and their employees. GRTU in
fact as member of EuroCommerce is participating in a campaign organised by
EuroCommerce, as European employer federation in the Commerce sector and
Uni-Europe Commerce the commerce sector trade union block to highlight this
issue across Europe GRTU research shows that this situation is true in Malta
too, abusive verbal aggression and physical aggression against self-employed and
employed persons in the commerce sector is growing dramatically and very little
action is being taken by government and by the community at large to resolve
this growing menace.

5. It is now recognised that this is an issue that
cannot be faced by the small business owner by himself but it has to be tackled
by the community. For too long the media has been dominated by one theme:
consumer rights. Hardly anyone, excepts GRTU in representation of the business
community has done anything to stress that business people and their employees
have rights too. There are people out there, and not necessary the rough and the
illiterate, who do not miss a chance to be abusive to retail staff. Hold-ups are
increasing dramatically. Physical assaults on shop owners are on the increase.
Verbal abuse is a daily occurrence in many outlets.

Aggression needs a
common front against it. It is not simply a question of shops putting security
measures otherwise they face the Courts and have to pay for damages. Violence
and abuse is not diminished by simply turning our shops into fortified enclaves.
The good thing about this case is that an important issue is being highlighted:
aggression against people in business.

 

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