The government will not support operators whose business model is solely focused on the importation of foreign workers, Robert Abela warned on Wednesday.
The prime minister's comments come days after Times of Malta reported that the government has embarked on a series of measures to try to limit the number of non-EU nationals living in Malta.
Addressing party supporters on the PL's radio on Wednesday, Abela said social progress relied on economic growth. Economic growth, he added, also relied on sectors that required foreign workers as the local supply of prospective employees did not meet the current demand.
This was the case for the elderly care sector: despite the government's efforts at improving work conditions and remuneration for Maltese and Gozitan nurses and carers, the ageing local population required the employment of skilled foreign workers, Abela said.
At the same time, Abela added, there were other sectors that employed a number of foreign workers - and where the starting salary stood at €40,000 - where he would like to see more Maltese and Gozitan employees. He did not specify which sectors he was referring to.
On the other hand, there were operators whose business model was not based on education, training and better conditions for workers.
"Their business model is based on an unlimited provision of foreign workers, and they invest nothing in technology or training.
"Is this model in the interest of the common good or the few, unnecessarily weighing down on the country's infrastructure," he asked.
Abela said that operators were currently facing two big changes: a digital and an environmental transition.
"Several have already embraced such changes, and the government will fully back operators who invest in training, quality, better working conditions, technology and the environment.
"However, we will stand up to the operators who are not willing to follow this strategic economic direction and instead, continue to base their business model on the importation of foreign workers who are returned to their home country when they've had enough of them... we are not willing to accept this mode of employment."
'No dignity in slavery-like conditions'
The PL, he said, was led by social democratic principles that ensure dignity for workers.
There was no dignity in slavery-like working conditions, he warned.
"Every worker in our country - Maltese, Gozitans and foreigners who are legitimately in our country - should be treated in a dignified manner."
Abela said the government was ensuring regular sustainable economic growth through enforcement and stricter rules, such as the recently updated requirements for Y-plate drivers.
As of July, cab drivers started being asked for a driving licence issued by an EU country to qualify for a Y-plate tag. This was part of a broader reform of Y-plate rules that seeks to enforce higher standards for light passenger transport services, such as ride-hailing services Bolt, eCabs or Uber.
'Foreigners who do not follow the rules will be deported'
On Wednesday, the prime minister said the authorities will also be strict with landlords who abuse the rental market and rent out their places to a large number of people. If need be, the government will increase sanctions, he said.
The authorities, he added, had also continued inspections of vehicles on the road.
"The authorities' message is that laws are there for everyone and need to be followed by all," he said, adding that foreigners who do not follow the country’s rules will be deported.
"Whoever is a guest in our country is expected to follow the rules," he said.