Abela: Labour to remain pro-business ‘as long as it benefits those in need’

Labour leadership hopeful Robert Abela says he wants to ‘control’ foreign worker influx to raise salaries

Robert Abela launches his leadership bid to the press
Robert Abela launches his leadership bid to the press

The Labour leadership hopeful Robert Abela is pledging an increase in wages across the board under his premiership, after pinning a slowdown in wages due to Malta’s foreign worker influx.

Abela was asked whether he agrees with raising the minimum wage, to which the Labour MP however said any raise would have to be seen in context of “the impact it has on the market… if the country’s economy allows it, why not?”

Abela’s bid for Labour leader has come with a pledge to eliminate cheap labour in the country, with his eyes set on controlling the foreign worker influx.

Abela said he wants to see a rise in salaries comparable to industry standards, and to have employers pay their workers by cheque or direct transfer, or face being refused employment permits.

Abela refused suggestions that his statement on foreign workers was hypocritical, given that Malta’s economic success had been driven by increased employment and a slowdown in wage increases. “I don’t think so, I haven’t said that I want to reduce [business] profits’ all I am saying is that they have to understand that everyone must have a decent way of living,” he stated.

Abela said the country can’t have a situation where the profits of the business sector continue to soar, while people at the risk of poverty don’t gain from that success. “That is the crux of the proposal, all wages must be increased so everyone enjoys form the country’s economic success,” he said.

Abela said Labour should continue its relationship with big business “as long as it continues to improve the way of life of those who are in need.”

Abela also refused suggestions that he had avoided the press in the last weeks. “I will never hide from the media,” Abela said.

Abela also said he wants vacant property owners to sell their dwellings at market prices so as to not distort the market price further by keeping housing empty. The properties would be purchased by the State, which would issue housing bonds to buy the property stock. The properties would then be restored and maintained in the space of a four-year period, while other vacant properties used for social housing. “This would be a quick solution to those looking for social housing, and while this would be shortening waiting times, it would also prevent the taking up of virgin land for big blocks of flats,” Abela said.

Abela also wants to give free medicine to all pensioners, a measure he has costed at €40 million.

Abela also said that he would be retaining the Individual Investor Programme, stating that one must not underestimate its contribution to the Maltese economy. “The easiest decision would have been to come here and tell you I would be removing the scream, but I won’t pursue that populist direction, because I am aware of the consequences sit would have on the country,” he said.