Admirably, the General Workers Union (GWU) has issued a bold statement condemning racism in which it pointed out that African immigrants were not a threat to Maltese workers. Needless to say, on the online version of newspapers and through social media this raised a furious debate. Some agreed, others disagreed, some vehemently so.
A very common comment was that ‘they should be protecting Maltese workers’. Something to which I would reply ‘this is exactly what they’re doing’. I will not enter the debate on whether African migrants should be given protection or not. It has nothing to do with a stand a Trade Union takes. The issue that the GWU clearly pointed towards is racism. And the GWU is right – racism harms Maltese workers.
Why? We all know that many African immigrants are employed illegally, paid less than the minimum wage and work longer hours or both, amongst other issues such as less health and safety provisions. (There are also many Maltese employed in such conditions, but that’s another story). Who is the abuser here? The migrants? Hardly so. I don’t think anyone is paid less than he deserves or than stipulated by law out of personal choice.
We know who the abusers are, don’t we? Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Is there a sense of helplessness? And above all, aren’t the abusers enjoying the friction. Quite convenient, no? Point your fingers at the Africans while we make a feast out of you all.
A comment by a person vehemently against African immigrants explains it all. This woman stated (apart from asking for Africans to be expelled etc.): “My husband was kicked out of work because his employer employed three illegal immigrants instead of him.” Others replied that they have suffered the same fate.
I believe them.
However, I would like to ask them the most crucial questions. What have you done about it? Have you reported this abuse to the authorities? To your husband’s Union? (Assuming he is in one, since many people are being intimidated into not joining a Trade Union). Do you really think that expelling Africans from Malta will make justice to your husband, even if it happens?
I’m sure that many of those fueling the fire of hatred are either right wing sympathizers or abusive employers themselves. Grilling the GWU is very convenient for them since probably the main things they hate more than Africans are Trade Unions and worker’s movements.
My fear is that there are many honest workers who are duped by the fear the egocentric scaremongers managed to create and are playing in their hands, thinking the GWU is acting as their enemy rather than their ally. This blog is directed towards the latter.