Prime Min­is­ter calls for min­i­mum wage talks

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat yes­ter­day called for talks be­tween em­ploy­ers, unions, govern­ment and civil so­ci­ety to start talk­ing about the ad­e­quacy of the min­i­mum wage and whether it still serves its aims.

Speak­ing at a po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity yes­ter­day morn­ing in Vit­to­riosa, Dr Mus­cat stressed that there would need to be a con­sen­sus on any such talks in or­der to move for­ward.

“The time has come to see where we want to head. Un­til there is agree­ment, govern­ment will not say there is no agree­ment and those on min­i­mum wage re­main where they are. We are say­ing there is no agree­ment yet we will still help you move for­ward”.

He said that three and a half years ago, the deficit was ex­plod­ing, there were high en­ergy prices that peo­ple couldn’t af­ford, high in­come tax, where those on the min­i­mum wage were not re­ceiv­ing any help, where there were no in­cen­tives for those on ben­e­fits to start work­ing, and where the econ­omy was stag­nant.

“We promised we would change the di­rec­tion. There were those who said that there was noth­ing that could be done to bet­ter the sit­u­a­tion, that we should live with medi­ocrity. In­stead of lis­ten­ing, we told the peo­ple that we were not sat­is­fied with the sit­u­a­tion, while they would com­plain about taxes, about high fuel prices, would say there is noth­ing we could do. We told the peo­ple to trust in us, so that we can show them things can be dif­fer­ent. Our stan­dards are based on suc­cess, not medi­ocrity, on the idea that things could be much bet­ter than they were at the time.

“We were mov­ing to­wards a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple would spend more than they earn. Their chil­dren would have dug a hole, cov­ered in debt.

“We had a plan, to first sta­bilise the econ­omy. If you don’t have a strong econ­omy, what we an­nounced in the bud­get would not have been able to oc­cur.

“Now, like the tree that is bears fruit, we can share the fruit”.

Bud­get did not rob Peter to pay Paul

“The mea­sures in the bud­get were not rob­bing Peter to pay Paul. We took from no-one, and gave to ev­ery­one. This is the dif­fer­ence with the pre­vi­ous govern­ment, which would take a lot and give just a bit.

“We have been, from the first bud­get, only giv­ing. We took noth­ing from the peo­ple”.

The role of govern­ment is for ev­ery­one to move for­ward. “We are pro-busi­ness and ev­ery­one who works here de­pends, in one way or an­other, from oth­ers. So it never makes sense for those at the top to take a hit. But then again, a govern­ment that only thinks of those on top and ig­nores the mid­dle­class and those be­low would not do well. To­day, we live in a sit­u­a­tion where those on top grew, the mid­dle­class so­lid­i­fied and grew, and those at the bot­tom, who can­not work, we are say­ing it is our fault that you re­main in poverty and this is why we are di­vid­ing the fruit”.

“We first thought of the those on the min­i­mum wage, and through bud­getary mea­sures, they will have around €4 per week in their pocket, then there are those with a fam­ily who have €18 more per week in their pocket”.

He men­tioned a pro­posal that was put for­ward by the Gen­eral Work­ers Union, which was in the bud­get.

“Ex­cept for cer­tain is­sues, we have re­moved pre­car­i­ous work from govern­ment. When there is a cleaner work­ing with a con­trac­tor on govern­ment poverty, they are not paid on min­i­mum wage. But now we are see­ing that while govern­ment raised the wages, there are pri­vate em­ploy­ers who are not find­ing peo­ple to em­ploy, and em­ploy them through a con­trac­tor.

“Yet on one side you have some­one em­ployed in a fac­tory paid €6 and next to her some­one do­ing the same job, em­ployed by a con­trac­tor paid just over €4. Em­ploy­ees work­ing the same job on the same site with dif­fer­ent wages. This is not ac­cept­able. We need to start talk­ing so that those who do the same job take the same wage”

He spoke of those on the min­i­mum pen­sion, who will re­ceive €4 more a year. The most a pen­sioner can re­ceive through a con­trib­u­tory pen­sion is €13,000.

“The mid­dle-class have not been for­got­ten in this bud­get. As an ex­am­ple, a pen­sioner who has the max­i­mum pen­sion, €13,000, to­day pays €585 tax per year. We have re­moved that tax”.

Pen­sion­ers

Turn­ing to an­other sec­tor of pen­sion­ers, those who don’t pay tax as they do not re­ceive enough of a pen­sion, Dr Mus­cat said, “We took this cat­e­gory of 9,000 peo­ple who are el­derly per­sons liv­ing on a sin­gle min­i­mum pen­sion, and we helped”.

He quoted from the Car­i­tas Direc­tor who was in­ter­viewed ear­lier this week on The Malta In­de­pen­dent’s in­ter­view pro­gramme, IN­DEPTH, as say­ing that the voice of those at risk of poverty is fi­nally be­ing heard through this bud­get.

He spoke about those who sac­ri­fice their lives to take care of their par­ents and sib­lings. “These peo­ple aren’t do­ing it for money and they are sav­ing tax­payer funds. We gave these peo­ple a €35 a week rise. We had no prob­lem re­mov­ing the means test. You have a right to be helped in car­ing for your par­ents.

“I am sat­is­fied with the change we have made for per­sons with dis­abil­ity. There have never been as many per­sons with dis­abil­ity work­ing as there are to­day”.

He said he wants Malta to suc­ceed so ev­ery­one will move for­ward.

Mod­i­fy­ing the dis­abil­ity pen­sion

Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Per­sons with Dis­abil­ity Justyne Caru­ana also ad­dressed the event.

She spoke about spread­ing the ben­e­fits of the econ­omy with ev­ery­one. Speak­ing about this bud­get, she said: “We made a de­ci­sive step to mod­ify the dis­abil­ity pen­sion, for those who can­not work to have a dis­abil­ity pen­sion equal to the min­i­mum wage”.

Turn­ing to the day cen­tres, she in­vited ev­ery­one to visit them. She said the PN left them in a bad state, and that this govern­ment will mod­ernise them. She also said a new cen­tre will also be com­pleted.

She spoke of a new €1 mil­lion fund for per­sons with dis­abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in life in the con­text of in­clu­sion.

“We are keep­ing our promises for a just so­ci­ety to suc­ceed”.

Turn­ing to the el­derly, she said it was a Labour govern­ment who in­tro­duced pen­sions, “and it was the PL govern­ment who rose pen­sions”.

“Through this bud­get, there are new re­forms and ser­vices for the el­derly to live a qual­ity life within the com­mu­nity. We also re­formed com­mu­nity care. 70,000 per­sons a year utilise this ser­vice, and we have elim­i­nated the wait­ing list”.

She also said that the meals on wheels wait­ing list will soon be no more.

She spoke about the St Vin­cent de Paule project that will in­crease beds and add ser­vices.

“We will in­tro­duce a bill in Par­lia­ment to­mor­row, to strengthen the rights of the el­derly and fight against abuse.

“This govern­ment has done a lot, but I look ahead pos­i­tively with all the good we will do”.

Turn­ing her gaze to the PN, she said they want to turn back the clock to pre-2013, to again have high en­ergy prices, for pen­sions to be less favourable then to­day, where stipends do not rise with the COLA, where those who re­peat do not re­ceive the stipend, where the South was con­sid­ered as sec­ond class.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Si­mon Busut­til wants Gozo to be the third class, she said.

Cents for fam­i­lies, but Panama com­pa­nies for the elite - PN

“Aside all of govern­ment’s at­tempts to give the im­pres­sion that the bud­get is a so­cial one, Mal­tese a Goz­i­tan fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially those in need, are re­al­is­ing that the bud­get for Mus­cat and his clique is dif­fer­ent from the bud­get for fam­i­lies,” the PN said in a state­ment.

“While Dr Mus­cat speaks about cents for fam­i­lies, his Chief of Staff and favourite min­is­ter were caught with se­cret com­pa­nies in Panama.

“While the en­ergy min­is­ter tried to de­fend him­self from the largest po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion scan­dal in his­tory, fam­i­lies keep pay­ing high en­ergy tar­iffs and fuel costs.

“The Prime Min­is­ter has yet to ex­plain how and why the go ahead to open ac­counts in Panama was given just two days af­ter Min­is­ter Mizzi signed the pri­vati­sa­tion con­tracts for Karen Grech Hos­pi­tal, St Luke’s Hos­pi­tal and the Gozo Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal”.

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