Where social justice is lacking

This story, however, has raised an interesting ethics issue. Do humans have a right to endanger animal lives by using them to do dangerous work?

A protester tries to push away a police horse in Sydney during anti-lockdown protests
A protester tries to push away a police horse in Sydney during anti-lockdown protests

When I entered politics, many moons ago, the PN had good connections with the CDU of Germany that at the time was promoting the idea of the social market economy. Such a policy was a compromise between sheer capitalism and the democratic socialism that were the two main political streams in the European political landscape at the time.

The argument was that a strict government control of the economy stifles private enterprise, while a completely liberal economic model leaves a number of people behind. The social market economy was a compromise that involved a liberal economic model that is slightly tweaked as necessary to avoid social injustices and help those who are left behind in the social stakes.

Some might say that that sort of argument is long past its sell-by date and the world has moved since then – more so after the fall of the Berlin wall, the implosion of the Soviet Union and the reforms in the eastern European countries that were its satellites.

So it may be. But the issue of people lacking progress up the social ladder is still with us. During the initial period of his Labour Party leadership, Alfred Sant used to unfairly criticise the Eddie Fenech Adami administration for pushing a neo-liberal economic agenda when, in fact, that administration genuinely worked to ensure that while the economy moved forward, nobody was left behind.

After Malta became a European Union member, there seemed to be a tacit consensus that the ideological differences between the PN and the PL had dissipated into thin air – especially where economic policies were concerned. This idea was reinforced by the Muscat administration’s economic policies, which were also adopted by the current Robert Abela government.

For some time, however, there surfaced a feeling that the current system is leaving low-paid workers behind and that there are too many of them that are employed precariously or even underpaid. This was exacerbated by the presence of thousands of foreign workers competing with Maltese workers for the jobs at the lower end of the social ladder.

The GWU had started fighting against the existence of precarious work during the Gonzi administration, when such situations already existed but in much lower numbers than today. The influx of foreign workers under Joseph Muscat has led to competition from foreigners in the lower ends of the employment market and an increase in precarious work.

Suddenly, it seems that the GWU newspapers have realised that the situation as regards unequal treatment between workers doing the same job and precarious work has gone from bad to worse.

In a very enlightening editorial last Tuesday, l-orizzont, recalling a story of a foreign female worker published in it-Torċa the previous Sunday, criticised in no uncertain manner the lack of government action to protect those – including many Maltese – that are finding themselves in a precarious economic situation. It even described this situation as the result of neo-liberalism.

The situation has turned full circle. It is now the current administration that is being criticised by the GWU papers on the issues of inequality and precarious work. Has the current crop of politicians leading Labour abandoned the interests of the workers at the lower end of the scale? Have they indirectly helped to make their employment conditions even worse, with the influx of foreign workers who accept lower wages – the legal minimum wage, unless the employment itself is illegal?

Some solution to this problem must be found, and the solution is not giving all unqualified Maltese (and Gozitans) a state job that is completely unnecessary. Recently Parliament discussed the accounts of the Water Services Corporation that registered a hefty loss in 2020. Incredibly, no one from the Opposition made a link between this hefty loss and the increase in the number of unnecessary workers, especially on the eve of the last general election. Anyone checking the addresses of these ‘new’ workers should not be surprised on the number of them coming from the electoral district contested by the then minister, Konrad Mizzi.

For starters, there is a need for many more inspections – especially on building sites – to ensure that no one is moonlighting. Employers employing foreign workers illegally should be heavily fined.

Secondly, I think that in the current circumstances, the minimum wage should be substantially increased.

Thirdly more efforts to decrease precarious workers are needed. In this, I am totally with the GWU, papers even though the GWU itself has shown to be lacking the courage to criticise the Labour administration on the issue.

An editorial in l-orizzont on this issue is a nice surprise, but this must be followed by more action.

Does the GWU have the guts to use its clout against the Labour administration for what is a very just cause?


On punching a horse

There has been an international reaction about the safety of police service animals after a horse was punched during anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Australia.

One protester was caught on camera during the precise moment his fist made contact with the animal. The photo went viral on the social media.

Subsequently a man was charged with affray, joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly, committing an act of cruelty upon an animal and not complying with a noticed direction in relation to COVID-19.

This story, however, has raised an interesting ethics issue. Do humans have a right to endanger animal lives by using them to do dangerous work?

Using mounted units is a practice that dates back to eighteenth century policing in London. Horses are often deployed by the police to suppress violence at crowded events. Many forces argue that it also allows them to be more visible and approachable to those that need them.

“If you’ve got one horse, it’s like having 10 coppers on the ground,” Senior Sergeant Glen Potter, the head of Western Australia’s Mounted Police section, told ABC Australia last year.

But animal rights activists argue that using horses to control protesting crowds is never an ethically sound practice. What happened in Sydney showed just how easily this can endanger animals such as horses, more so because of their innate nature that leads them to avoid conflicts.