Busuttil pitches PN as workers' party and guardian of the voiceless

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil accuses Joseph Muscat of having worked to deny people of their right to vote, says Labour's legal battle against voting recount mistake was 'anti-democratic'

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil ventured into traditional Labour territory this morning, pitching the Nationalist Party as the voice of the workers and the defender of people in precarious jobs and those struggling to make ends meet.

Speaking to party faithful in Lija, Busuttil described the Nationalist Party as the party that was giving a voice to the voiceless, small businesses, people living on the minimum wage and feeling a squeeze on their wages, as well as people who were taken for a ride by the government.

“If there is a party which has the workers’ interests at heart, and which is there to safeguard workers’ rights, it is the PN. Conversely, the government is only appeasing the millionaires and ignoring the struggles faced by many,” Busuttil rallied.

Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the PN leader said the Labour Party’s decision to pursue a protracted legal battle against a mistake committed during the counting process of the 2013 general election was an “anti-democratic” exercise.

“For nearly four years, despite having won the general election by a large margin, Joseph Muscat did all he could to ignore voters’ wishes. His mask has now come off, Joseph Muscat worked to deny people of their most basic right; their right to vote,” Busuttil said.

Accusing Muscat of “working against democracy,” Busuttil said the PN had survived major obstacles and the Constitutional Court’s decision to allocate the Opposition two additional seats in parliament meant that the PN had gotten what is theirs by right.

Edwin Vassallo and Peter Micallef, who both served as MPs in the past, will be returning to parliament following the Constitutional Court’s decision. The unprecedented decision will see parliament’s composition rise from 69 to 71 seats, the first time in the history of the Maltese parliament.

“The Constitutional Court, the highest court in Malta whose decision is final and cannot be appealed, decreed that an injustice had been carried out, and that there was a breach of voters’ fundamental human rights. This mistake was unintentional and acknowledged by the Electoral Commission, yet nevertheless, the government did not accept it and went on with a protracted legal battle to deny the PN what is ours by right,” he said.

“The Opposition’s battle – and eventual victory – was all about giving a voice to the voiceless, and to those whose vote was ignored by the government,” he said.

“It is a huge victory, a huge moral victory for the Nationalist Party, Edwin Vassallo, Peter Micallef, and the people whose votes were ignored … This victory highlighted the PN’s resistance and showed that despite all the obstacles, the PN will never give up,” Busuttil insisted.

GWU's €8.5 million contract 'obscene' - Busuttil

Hitting out at an “obscene” agreement that sees the General Workers’ Union earning more than €8.5 million on 600 formerly unemployed individuals, the PN leader accused Joseph Muscat of giving a blessing to precarious employment.

Busuttil made the remarks in the wake of a report by The Sunday Times of Malta which revealed how under a government jobless scheme, 600 long-term unemployed individuals were transferred employment agency JobsPlus to a foundation run by the GWU.

The workers – who in the meantime have been struck off the unemployment register – are being paid from public funds, and are categorised as under private sector employment, the report states.

“These people are earning a minimum wage of around €700 per month. The General Workers’ Union is earning a fee of €1,000 for each worker every month, making a €300 profit every month on each worker.”

“These workers are being taken advantage of and exploited. In some situations, people who are doing the same job as those employed under this scheme are earning some €300 more … If this is not precarious employment I do not know what is,” Busuttil said.

“Before the election, Joseph Muscat had pledged to eradicate precarious work, yet now, he is giving his blessing to this precarious employment,” the PN leader insisted as he reiterated his party’s support in favour of a minimum wage increase.

Busuttil said the PN’s promise to slash income tax for small businesses to 10% of their income would benefit 7,000 shops and 18,000 employees. He said the proposal highlighted how the party was giving a voice to the small businesses and which distinguished it from the Labour Party, as the latter is far more interested in courting “millionaire businesses.”

The Opposition leader said the PN would be supporting a request by the Medical Association of Malta and the Union Haddiema Maghqudin for the privatisation contract of three public hospitals to be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The PAC, which is chaired by Nationalist MP Tonio Fenech, will tomorrow discuss the call made by the two unions.

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