It wasn’t too long ago that Adrian Delia was warning everyone who would listen about the danger posed by foreign workers.
Foreigners are wreaking havoc with the “Maltese identity” and eroding the nation’s values, the then PN leader told his supporters back in 2018. The economy is only growing because foreigners are moving to Malta to take up jobs, he said repeatedly.
However, Delia now seems to have changed his tune.
The MP and former PN leader today shared a Times of Malta article about restaurateurs warning of severe staff shortages because several foreign workers have left Malta since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
This shortage, which the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association has described as a “big problem”, is compounded by the fact that a number of Maltese restaurant workers found a new job during lockdown.
“When the storm hits, the foreigners are the first to leave and let us fend for ourselves,” Delia said. “Then when we seek them out, we cannot find them, and suffer a double blow as a result.”
Lovin Malta has asked Delia to clarify his statement. Does he think more foreign workers should come to Malta? Does he think there are simply too many jobs?
“When leader I had criticised the growth of the economy by an increase in population. I had warned that particularly in a downturn, these people would leave and therefore we would find it difficult to recruit when the upturn returns,” he said. “That’s exactly what is happening.”
Of course, the easy answer would be to say that restaurants should offer their staff better salaries, but that would ignore the fact that they also have huge overhead costs, particularly if they rent out their establishments.
Restaurants’ problems have only increased during the pandemic – not only have they gone through two lockdowns but they have had to introduce several new restrictions, such as fewer tables, while the lack of tourism means the market has shrunk significantly.
The environment remains extremely uncertain too, with the government refusing to rule out any more lockdowns for the sector, which probably isn’t helping restaurants attract new staff.
Delia could suggest that landlords should reduce the rent but that would open up an entire can of worms that few, if any, politician will be keen to address.
It’s much easier to cast foreign workers as the eternal scapegoat – making them feel unwanted when they come here and then criticising them when they leave.
A very sad state of affairs for Maltese politics.