Gonzi accuses Labour of a minimum wage freeze
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday set the tone for the electoral campaign and accused the Labour Party of wanting to freeze the minimum wage.
He said Labour leader Joseph Muscat wanted to finance his proposal to lower utility bills by freezing the minimum wage, arguing that this meant the yearly cost of living adjustment would not be awarded.
Speaking in Gozo, Dr Gonzi insisted that the Labour leader could not be trusted because his policy went from one extreme to another.
But in a tit for tat, the Labour Party accused Dr Gonzi of lying about its proposal and insisted that the yearly increase to the minimum wage based on the cost of living adjustment would remain.
“There is consensus that the minimum wage should not increase more than the yearly statutory increase and, for partisan reasons, GonziPN is trying to undermine this,” the PL said.
Dr Muscat had said a Labour government would not increase the minimum wage over and above the annual cost of living adjustment, as suggested by some social partners, but would instead give low income families reprieve by lowering utility rates.
However, Dr Gonzi was unforgiving yesterday. “When the Labour Party realised that its proposal two years ago to have a living wage was criticised by everybody they ditched it quietly and now they go to the other end and propose freezing the minimum wage.”
He argued that wage freezing was a policy tool used by former Labour Prime Minister Dom Mintoff in the 1980s.
He insisted that, under a Nationalist government, the minimum wage would increase every year according to the cost of living adjustment and noted that, since 2008, it had cumulatively gone up by almost €1,000 annually.
On Gozo, the Prime Minister said preliminary studies on the undersea tunnel between the two islands gave encouraging indications and if the end result was a viable project it would be done.
Taking a question from veteran journalist Leonard Callus about rumours that he may quit as Prime Minister, Dr Gonzi reiterated to applause that “a good captain never abandoned his ship”.
He said the election would come when the time was right for the country and urged voters to look at the experience of the past four years.
“Wrong decisions have put countries in very humiliating positions, not only for today but for the next 10 years,” he said, adding that his Administration managed to weather the economic storm.
As he has been doing for the past weeks, Dr Gonzi emphasised his government’s track record of saving jobs, keeping unemployment down and allowing the economy to move ahead.