Prime Minister hopeful Robert Abela has promised a discussion on whether to ban employers from hiring foreign workers unless they can ensure that all their staff are paid decent wages.
At a campaign launch to which the press weren’t invited, Abela also proposed that permits to employ foreigners won’t be handed out unless employers pay them their full salaries to their bank accounts and that permits will be reminded if employers are caught breaking work condition regulations or employing foreign workers off the books.
He didn’t specify how salaries would be defined as decent, stating they will have to compare well to salaries paid for the job in question. As an example, he said that “if a job is supposed to pay €8 an hour, employers will no longer be allowed to hire foreign workers and pay them €5 an hour instead.”
“In recent years, the number of people working full-time has increased by 55,000, a 36% increase, and only 1,700 people are unemployed, the lowest unemployment rate in Malta’s history,” Abela said. “However, some people feel that despite this economic growth and creation of jobs, they aren’t being allowed to participate justly and wholly in the job market and that salaries haven’t increased at the same pace for everyone.”
“Foreign workers are crucial to our economic growth, and without them we wouldn’t have experienced the economic growth of recent years and the lovely reality we’re currently living in wouldn’t have materialised.”
“However, it is also true that having so many foreign workers is stopping salaries from increasing at a faster pace. While we must recognise that without foreign workers, the economy wouldn’t have grown as it did, we must also reach a solution of balance and justice.”
He also proposed an innovative solution to convert the thousands of vacant properties around Malta into social housing or affordable housing units. As per his plan, an entity will be set up to purchase vacant properties at market value and the purchases will be financed by the public through bonds. When tenants pay rent, the money will go to bondholders, who will be guaranteed a steady flow of income on their investment.
“This system works in other European countries, why can’t it also work in Malta?” Abela asked.
The Prime Minister hopeful also proposed that all pensioners receive medication for free within the next five years, an estimated €40 million cost to the government, as well as a national afforestation project across Maltese towns and villages.
Abela is contesting against Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne to succeed Joseph Muscat as Prime Minister and PL leader and the election has been scheduled for 11th January.