Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has become the second Cabinet minister to forfeit her salary for a month as a gesture of solidarity towards people struggling to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is a time for solidarity,” she said, explaining the intention behind her gesture, which came moments after Prime Minister Robert Abela and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri made a similar declaration.
Farrugia Portelli praised the government’s new financial package to businesses who have been forced to shut down as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“No other country has offered a similar package,” she said, confidently stating that Malta can overcome the COVID-19 crisis and emerge stronger as a nation.
The deal will see the government pay €800 to each worker whose job has been brought to a grinding halt, meaning those currently on the minimum wage will actually see their earnings rise by around €23. Meanwhile, employer associations have agreed that, in the case of employees earning more than €800, employers will pay them a further €400 themselves, bringing their take-home pay up to €1,200.
While this deal is undoubtedly welcome news for the 60,000 workers it is expected to impact, including those in the tourism industry, it won’t do much to alleviate the doubts of workers in other industries which haven’t been made to close down but which are nevertheless suffering financially as a result of the crisis.
“Around 164,000 employees in the private sector will be negatively impacted by this situation but the government has chosen to seriously help only 60,000 of them,” Opposition MP Claudio Grech said. “The rest are being treated as second-class workers. Robert Abela is making a huge mistake by ignoring these sectors, which were the pillars of Malta’s economic growth.”