Equality parliamentary secretary calls for ‘respect and empathy’ for all workers

Rosianne Cutajar distances herself from Silvio Schembri’s insensitive comment on foreign workers and calls on society to show ‘respect and empathy’ to all at this time of gloom

Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar (File photo)
Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar (File photo)

Rosianne Cutajar has distanced herself from fellow Cabinet member Silvio Schembri in calling from “respect and empathy” for all workers.

The Equality Parliamentary Secretary took to Facebook to hammer home the message of inclusiveness at a time when all workers face an uncertain future.

“In the best of times, we worked all together… we welcomed whoever wanted to be part of the Maltese dream, and thanks for the neasures adopted by the government we started building a new Maltese community: richer and more diverse,” she wrote.

Cutajar appealed for this to continue at a time when clouds are appearing on the horizon.

“Let us show respect and empathy towards everyone, but especially those who did the toughest and most humble jobs, and without which we would not be where we are today,” Cutajar said.

Her comment was a reaction to Economy Minister Silvio Schembri’s statement in Parliament that foreign workers will have to leave if they end up unemployed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Schembri’s remark was ill-received by thousands of foreign workers who have made Malta their home over the past few years of exceptional economic growth.

In one fell swoop of insensitivity, Schembri reversed all that the Labour government has stood for over the past few years when it extolled the importance of importing foreign labour to sustain the country’s economic growth.

Human rights organisation, Aditus, reacted forcefully, insisting that “no words can capture the level of our disgust at these comments”.

While Schembri referred to "foreigners" during his parliamentary address, he later on specifically referred to third-country nationals, especially employees in the tourism industry. Many were confused as to whether his comments were also directed at EU nationals, who enjoy the same rights as Maltese.

The confusion saw the Maltese Italian Chamber of Commerce issue a statement hoping the comments were the result of a misunderstanding.

"At this moment, we should be thinking about protecting everyone's health, rather than finding means to divide us. Coronavirus does not distinguish between nationalities. We are sure that the minister's words are the result of a misunderstanding," the chamber said.

Italians form a large community in Malta and many have come here to work and brought over their families to live here. Other have invested in businesses, especially in the catering sector.

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