Of living wages & other problems

    DOI - Clodagh O'Neill

    It’s been a pretty eventful week in the realm of local politics: Robert Abela is now Prime Minister and his cabinet is larger than the one Joseph Muscat had, complete with some new faces. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the importance we give to the people living on the bottom of the wage pyramid.

    An article published by The Times of Malta as a rundown of Abela’s statements during TVM’s Dissett noted that: ‘[Robert Abela] said he wanted wages improved and he wanted equal pay for equal work. But he could not commit to a living wage. It could not be introduced in the foreseeable future as it was unsustainable.’

    Look, I am no economist nor am I a communist, but I do believe that the economy should not be left to its own devices and eat the majority of us alive, and a living wage is, in my opinion, a basic building block of a just society. Moreover, I can’t fathom how the leader of any party that prides itself on being socialist could not see that, nor why they wouldn’t fight for it.

    Of course, there are many so-called ‘reasons’ – read ‘excuses’ – brought forward as to why a higher living wage would be unsustainable: basic necessities would automatically become more expensive, other people would also want a raise, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But, as things stand, the only people benefiting from the current minimum wage – a laughable €761.97 per month – are the business owners and the rich.

    How can we not see that that amount can hardly be enough to pay for rent or a mortgage and still have enough left over for food, bills and necessities? And why is Robert Abela, who doesn’t even know the price of a staple like a ħobża tal-Malti, so unwilling to shake the system if he has the working class at heart, as he has said?

    I really want to give Robert Abela a chance. His decision not to have the Daphne Memorial cleared and the Police Commissioner’s resignation – though obvious steps – are definitely steps in the right direction because God knows this country needs stability and someone good in government. But that shouldn’t come at the price of not keeping things in focus.

    Abela is the same man who said Daphne’s family didn’t want to see justice done a few months ago, the one who has been publicly supported by Gaffarena (something which anyone with a good sense of judgement would have publicly disassociated himself from), and has had photos taken with the likes of Konrad Mizzi and the now-former Police Commissioner. And that’s not to mention that Keith Schembri’s phone went live the moment Abela was sworn in; I mean, yes, coincidences do happen, but really?

    Robert Abela’s responsibility at this point in time is immense and he’d do well to remember that while words are indeed important, his actions also speak volumes, whether it’s through the upkeep of socialist values or the importance of bringing those who have erred us to justice.