The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Why Joseph Muscat wants more foreign workers.

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 17 September 2023, 08:41 Last update: about 9 months ago

“The island’s economy is definitely reliant on foreign workers,” the disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat declared. “…. I hope we don’t go down the way where we say we need or want so much and that’s it”.

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Why does Muscat want to keep importing non-EU workers?

The answer, as is often the case with Muscat, is money.

For each of the tens of thousands of non-EU workers brought to Malta each year, recruitment agencies are making a killing.  Last year alone Malta issued 38,000 residence permits - that’s 160% more than the previous year. That translates into multi-million profits for recruitment agencies.

The most prolific recruitment company is Ozogroup, co-owned by the Zammit Tabonas who paid Joseph Muscat tens of thousands of euro. Muscat started receiving the money within 3 months of being forced out of office.  When the Times of Malta asked Muscat how this was even possible, the garrulous Muscat lost his tongue: “I don’t comment on my private practice”. A spokesperson for Fortina similarly refused to give any details of the Zammit Tabonas’ financial arrangements with Muscat.

Ozogroup brags it employs workers from 37 different nationalities. In July 2022, the Shift revealed that Ozogroup was awarded a 10 million direct order by Wasteserv to continue supplying 700 low-paid personnel to the agency’s waste treatment facilities. The details were published just as company director Michael Zammit Tabona was on TV describing Joseph Muscat as “the best prime minister ever”. He desperately defended Muscat on Saviour Balzan’s TV programme claiming all allegations of corruption were “mostly inventions”.

Muscat is now paying the Zammit Tabonas back.

But Muscat may have another reason why he wants Malta to keep importing foreign workers - Charlon Gouder. Gouder is the lawyer representing Muscat in his pathetic efforts to remove Magistrate Gabriella Vella from the Vitals Hospitals inquiry.  Gouder also profited from the importation of foreign workers. He signed a 2017 contract between Ozogroup and a Nepalese employment agency to bring 350 Nepalese workers to Malta.

Gouder’s contract stipulated that workers would spend a minimum of 2 years in Malta on low wages and that Ozogroup would take care of flights, accommodation, meals and visas.  Obtaining visas for non-EU workers is a bureaucratic nightmare - but not for those with inside contacts in the right places.  When Arnold Cassola asked Gouder “are you still bringing over cheap labour from Nepal?”, Gouder didn’t reply.

When challenged about his involvement in importing non-EU workers Gouder denied any involvement. The Shift published a copy of the agreement signed by Gouder.  Instead of backing down and admitting, Gouder doubled down. “I categorically deny I am, or have ever been, a second party to any agreement for the importation of workers from Nepal.  Anything, including agreements, showing otherwise are false”.  So you can either believe Charlon Gouder, caught cheating at his University Law exam and penalised for it by the Law Faculty, or you could believe the signed contract.

Joseph Muscat won’t let anybody stop the importation of thousands of workers. It’s too lucrative for Zammit Tabona. Muscat created the demand for foreign workers. And his successor, Robert Abela, the continuity candidate, propagated it.  Both Labour leaders depleted the Maltese workforce by “poaching thousands of workers from the private sector into non-productive employment in the public sector”. At least that’s what the Malta Employers Association (MEA) believes. Muscat and Abela “veered towards mass tourism creating a higher demand for less qualified lower paid employees”. The few Maltese workers without a government job aren’t interested in those low paid jobs. “Many young people are seeking a better quality of life abroad, mostly due to the high property prices and congested environment” the MEA insisted. Those high property and rental prices, are driven by Muscat’s and Abela’s massive overpopulation of the country.

The best example of how effectively Labour depleted the workforce is Gozo. The Gozo Business Chamber estimates that 50% of all Gozo’s workers are employed directly or indirectly by government.  In 2015 only 1.6% of workers were non-Maltese.  In 2020 it’s 20%. That’s no surprise. 35.5% of all Gozitan workers are employed directly with government.  Another 500 are on the GWU community work scheme - a scam ostensibly intended to help long-term unemployed find gainful employment but where nobody ever finds a job. 300 of them ‘work’ for the Gozo ministry but don’t appear on the government payroll. They’re listed as private sector workers because government pays the GWU which then pays them and makes a profit. Ghasri, Gozo’s smallest village has twice as many of those “workers” as St Paul’s Bay, the country’s most populated local council.

The total sham of ‘phantom jobs” is so rife that Gozo’s Bishop delivered a scathing rebuke.  “Those who are being paid without going to work or are just spending a few minutes at work before leaving to conduct their personal business are taking what isn’t theirs - and giving their families a bad example”.

Labour has corrupted everything in its path. When recent surveys (https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/data_and_surveys/124078/maltatoday_survey_pn_ahead_for_first_time_in_15_years1 ) revealed the party’s dwindling support and the nation’s fury at the overpopulation, Robert Abela decided to change tack. “The government has embarked on a series of measures to limit the number of non-EU nationals”, several senior ministers announced. “There is a concerted effort to limit population growth,” Byron Camilleri declared. “Government felt something needed to be done” and “recent surveys have accelerated the process”, another added.

Joseph Muscat wasn’t amused. He hit out at his successor’s plans. The economy is “definitely reliant” on non-EU workers he insisted.

Robert Abela swiftly retaliated. “Is this model in the interest of the common good or just the few?”, he told ONE.  “We will stand up to operators who continue to base their business model on  importation of foreign workers”. Now he’s gone further, threatening to regulate those recruitment agencies.

Abela wants to save himself - so he will, at least pretend to do something about overpopulation.  Meanwhile Muscat wants to protect his employers’ lucrative revenue. He’ll keep lobbying for more foreign workers.

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