The Honourable member from the 13th district has published an article in today’s Independent that deals inter alia (amongst other things) with the concept and history of the “minimum wage”. The issue itself has probably been milked dry and I strongly suspect that bar for a few smartarse reminders and quips it will be banished to the annals of history as yet another exercise of empty media marketing.
The most striking part of this whole “minimum/living wage” debate has been the fact that the two main parties have absolutely no use for it in their plans. Look at it like this. The only reason why the nationalist party mentioned the minimum wage is because some minion in its spin machine decided to make it seem that Joseph Muscat would “freeze the minimum wage”. Muscat had intimated his intention not to touch the minimum wage – very much in the same way that successive governments have generally done since 1974. The whole “freeze” business sounded hipper to the nationalist spin crowd – given the logical and associative leaps it allowed to the Labour economic management of the eighties.
Labour on the other hand is busy denying any form of freezing and has spent most its breaks from calling anybody in the nationalist party “liar” explaining that it has absolutely no intention of doing anything with the minimum wage (because growth will help us all equally – see Debating substance with regard to the logic of this argument). So two parties – both of whom have no practical plans involving “minimum wage” and yet we have been exposed to noisy, useless spin from both sides. Great.
Anton Refalo is an expert at useless and noisy. Which is probably why he regaled us with a history of minimum wage in Malta followed by the usual diatribe about those lying, scheming nationalists. Any ideas or concrete plans about how the minimum wage can actually be used by a potential progressive government. Does Refalo know one more than the devil (or Karmenu Vella for what it matters)? Does he rubbish. The only positive from this article is the attempted (though vague) reference at some actual statistics about persons on the minimum wage in Malta (though no reference to the source is given):
Studies, both local and international, consistently show the amount of employees that earn the minimum wage in Malta amount to less than one worker out of 20 while the ratio declined by definition when compared to the total working population. The studies also confirm that around one-fourth of the persons on minimum wage are employed in the wholesale and retail sector. The sector with the second largest number of people on minimum wage is the manufacturing sector.
Other sectors employing a significant number of persons on minimum wage are the construction sector and the hotel and restaurant sector. This, however, does not mean that many thousands of people do not have to survive with wages just above the threshold. In fact, there are thousands of workers whose income is close enough to the minimum wage that they fall in the bracket of people classified as being in risk of poverty.
In any case, Refalo hardly bothers to tell us what he, or his party, proposes with regards to all this. He limits himself to a concluding tirade at GonziPN: “Instead of spinning stories and perpetuating lies, GonziPN should focus on creating real jobs. The minimum wage is an issue only when those seeking employment are at the mercy of events.”
Yeah right Anton. So you still have no idea how all this wealth will be generated do you? All we get is much Anton Refalo about nothing.