This was a thought-provoking question posed to Jesus. “A man was going down the road to Jericho when he was beaten and dumped half dead on the side of the road,” Jesus recounted.
Many are familiar with the parable of the downtrodden man and the kind-hearted Samaritan.
Recently, we re-experienced this parable. Lamin Jaitah, a Ghanaian worker who was injured at his workplace, was allegedly dumped on the curb of the road by his employer. Jaitah claimed his own boss dragged him from the van and abandoned him on the road.
Many were rightly shocked and voiced their dismay. This was inhuman. Too many humans but little humanity, one may ask? Not even an animal deserves such treatment, let alone a fellow human being.
Unfortunately, this is not the only episode of exploitation and abuse. Many black people are experiencing such degradation. On the other hand, let us not turn Jaitah’s employer into a scapegoat to appease our national conscience. Surely, he is not the only one!
As a nation, we must undergo a serious soul-searching exercise. Let us be honest and acknowledge that we have a grave problem of racism. Racism is evil. It dehumanises the human being. Racism has many facades. Precarious work is one of them. Sadly, we have institutionalised precarious work structures, which enable degrading work conditions.
Regrettably, many, including politicians, trade unionists and policymakers, are choosing to turn their head just like the priest and the Levite did in the Good Samaritan parable. Are they afraid to care? Are they worried about losing votes?
As the pharaohs and kings of ages gone by built their pyramids and monumental structures through the blood and sweat of slaves, I dare to ask if we are building our economy and our prosperity on the sweat and blood of these fellow brethren. Are we endorsing cheap labour? Is this not a modern version of slavery? Do we need to question our economic model? Are we promoting the commodification of people, in particular the most vulnerable and treat them as ‘inferior species’? Whether these workers are ‘illegal’ or ‘legal’ migrants is a secondary and irrelevant issue and can never justify such exploitation.
The core issue here is the blatant exploitation of the vulnerable.
We must undergo a serious soul-searching exercise- Albert Buttigieg
The issue of precarious employment ought to be addressed with urgency and assertiveness. We need to go beyond rhetoric and to inquire why our Health and Safety Authority and Jobs Plus are not proactive despite such well-known rampant abuses.
How many on-site inspections were held recently? How many ‘employers’ were found breaching employment regulations by engaging workers, in particular in construction, delivery services, catering and agriculture, without the necessary work permits and were heftily fined?
Why is the Building Regulations Authority failing to enforce the current building laws when such abuses are so rampant? Why are a number of building contractors allowed to act with impunity? Why are contractors not registered? Why aren’t there basic standards to abide by? How many people must die, be exploited or treated badly before we act?
We demand convincing answers rather than spin, crocodile tears or sweet talk!
Although advised not to comment on this contentious theme since it is not vote-catching, I will not shy away. But aren’t politicians supposedly voted in to inspire and lead us to higher grounds rather than go with the flow? Are we experiencing casual politics, void of any sound principles and only based of spin and gloss? Vote me in or boot me out, I stand with our core values of solidarity, human dignity for all and social justice.
The value of solidarity and human dignity are the cornerstone of our democratic credentials and the main pillar of our Christian ethos.
Solidarity and the well-being of all human beings, whatever skin colour, race or creed, must be the departure and the arrival point of any policies.
The parable ends up with the Samaritan taking care of the poor man.
It is heartening to read that Jaitah also experienced the good-heartedness of not only the community police and our medical staff but also of other fellow Maltese who offered financial support and possible future employment.
Who is my neighbour? “The one who had mercy on him,” was the response.
“Go and do likewise,” was Jesus’s prompt reply.
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