The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Foreign workers: Opposition Leader accuses Prime Minister of ‘importing slavery’

Sunday, 7 April 2019, 12:47 Last update: about 5 months ago

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia on Sunday accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of “importing slavery.”

Speaking in Nadur, Gozo, Delia said foreign workers were being left with some €400 a month after commissions for contractors were deducted from their salaries.

“Past PN governments created new economic sectors and always welcomed foreign workers to Malta. But these were high quality, well-paid jobs. Joseph Muscat is importing slavery. I say this with great responsibility. Even the President spoke about this. Are we treating these workers like human beings? Muscat is interested only in balancing the government books, not in people,” Delia charged.

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Delia referred to President George Vella’s inaugural speech on Thursday, in which he spoke about hidden poverty, especially among pensioners. The PN would give its full backing to the President in the fight against poverty, Delia said, accusing the government of looking the other way.

“The government did not find a solution to pensions, infrastructure and social housing when we had a surplus. What will we do now that we have a deficit?”

He echoed the President’s words that the state, and not charity, is responsible for the welfare of its citizens.

The PN Leader said the government does not speak about pensioners. “The President said one in five pensioners is living in poverty. These numbers will keep increasing.”

Delia said he had visited pensioners who are finding it increasingly harder to afford to pay their rent.

“Can the government explain how a pensioner living on €9,000 a year can afford to pay €5,000 a year in rent? How can they live a decent life?”

He said the PN had met with the national pensioners association, which completely disagrees with the PM’s statement that pensions should be dependent on the importation of foreign workers.

“Do they know how many workers they need to sustain 100, 200 pensions? They are taking people for a ride. The government does not have a plan.”

He also said the PM was only pro-big business, adding that small enterprises were not doing well and were digging into their savings.

“We care about every last individual. We cannot live in a society that does not care about its members. We are losing our social conscience, that which makes us Maltese.”

Delia spoke about the rise in criminality, adding that the police have “lost control.”

Another area the Presidency would focus on is the environment. “Never was the environment so degraded as it has been in the past few years. We have done irreversible damage. This is affecting our everyday lives,” Delia said.

The PN Leader said hundreds of people died every year as a result of air pollution. “This is not about targets and numbers. People are dying. Yet the government does not even acknowledge that we have a problem. It always tries to hide such issues, but our children have a right to breathe clean air and they should not be victims of what the government calls success.”

On the subject of education, Delia said Malta has one of the worst early school-leaving rates while youths are being disheartened because the economy is so focused on using cheap foreign labour.

Delia also reiterated the PN’s anti-abortion stance, pledging that it would not “move an inch” on the issue. “For the government life in the womb is just 8 cells but for us it is everything. We will never tolerate the introduction of abortion, even if we end up as the only country in the world without it.”

Speaking before Delia, PN MEP Roberta Metsola said Gozo has all the potential to become the “digital destination of the future.”

She called for massive public investment in traditional and digital infrastructure to make Gozo the destination of choice for foreign direct investment and to keep attracting mobile workers to the island.

“We have the private enthusiasm but we need this to be matched by public decisions. Do not leave Gozo behind,” she said.  

MEP Metsola said that she was working to support EU funding for a more modern Gozo Channel fleet, “it is time for a fourth and fifth ferry, and the fast ferry service has taken too long. People are tired of empty promises, it is time for action”. 

 

PL reaction

Reacting, the Labour Party said Delia has confirmed that he is under pressure and exaggerated negativity is the only weapon he has left. This included when he said that the government wanted the elderly to die. No one believes Delia, the PL said.

The party said the government had increased pensions by millions and there are countless ongoing infrastructural works. 

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