In this world of double-talk and economic progress built on high buildings and peddled passports, sometimes a voice of reason stands out.
The Malta Employers’ Association has one interest, to protect its members. The world has changed since Labour old, when things weren’t ideal for the association. The reformed Labour Party has today become business-friendly, pushing it more than ever to the right of the political spectrum. Employers are still not perfectly happy.
While Labour has dropped the class struggle of the 1970s and 1980s, it has replaced it by another ideology more befitting these times of abject relativity. It is an ideology that threw the Nationalist Party in disarray.
Labour became ostensibly liberal, although many of its supporters remained rooted in its old ways, which meant the party in government soon adopted its old-style political patronage. But there was a new class of voters it could not please in the same way. It was the LGBTIQ lobby and, more recently, women’s groups, and their supporters of the neo-liberal ilk.
It seems this is causing problems for employers. Employers don’t have a problem with equality for all, they want to be pragmatic. But they expect things to be done without fuss.
In December, a red flag went up when the Equality Affairs Ministry said the government was finalising the Equality Act and the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act to set up an “independent human rights institution”.
MEA vice-president Arthur Muscat does not like what’s coming. Writing in this newspaper, he says the new laws will replace current labour laws that are fully compliant with EU directives. The new law, he notes, will deem the employer guilty and has to prove his innocence. He says the Equality Act is fundamentally contentious, apart from its legal inconsistencies.
Mr Muscat recognises that politicians go after the votes of marginal groups that could tip (and they did) the balance on election day. However, in appeasing those groups, the government should not impinge on the inalienable rights of other groups, he insists.
In such a scenario, it is not just the MEA that feels excluded but the whole of society. The new language of the Equality Affairs Ministry is sometimes incomprehensible.
When this newspaper wrote that the government had made a mockery of the institution of marriage in view of the promises it made to the gay lobby, the newspaper was accused by the LGBTIQ Consultative Council of fomenting homophobia and intolerance. This newspaper has a right to argue the government is promising what cannot be and then dismantling a fundamental pillar of society to achieve what it cannot.
There are all the arguments to be made in favour of equality for all, irrespective of colour, creed or sexual orientation. The government must work to achieve that. But worded in neo-liberal speak makes all sound politically dishonest and unreal.
The MEA thinks the legislative changes being proposed show an angry and unjustified contempt by extreme groups towards employers. More likely, it is more a case of the government taking on the cause of extremists (probably history may justify their stands) and irresponsibly making it its own.
That is not what a government is for. A government administers for the common good, not of interest groups that could keep it in power.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial
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