Today’s Labour Party simply stands for making the cake bigger, not dividing it in a fair way.
by Joseph Abela
In 1920 members of Workers’ Union Branch No. 3  founded the Chamber of Labour to represent the interests of the working class in coalition with the newly founded Constitutional party. They called themselves ‘Il-Partit tal-Ħaddiema’, the Worker’s Party.  It proposed measures which at the time were considered radical, such as the Workmen’s Compensation Act, whereby workers would be compensated for any injury that they incurred when working.  The party also stood for the introduction of women’s right to vote.  In 1948, the first Labour government implemented the first law that provided a rudimentary pension structure and enacted the Income Tax act. 
Throughout the years the party underwent many changes, not only in its name, but also in its policies and beliefs. While this is a standard process which every political party must go through, the changes are not always positive. Today’s Labour party thrives on its ‘business-friendly’ image. The formal explanation of the party’s standing can be reduced to the following: to help those at the bottom, the government has to grow the economic ‘cake’ so it has more to dole out. Therefore, the first priority is to attract more business and create an environment where business can flourish and the economy can keep growing. The created wealth is then promised to be distributed to those in need (or at least that is what they would like us to think).
The reality is not as bright and straight forward as it is promised to be. As in everything related to politics, wealth distribution is a trade-off process. In most cases, the wealth is clearly not trickling down and this is a worldwide phenomenon. Instead, the businesses gain more power to lobby the government to further increase their profits. For instance, in recent years Malta has gone through a construction boom due to the ever growing wealth of developers and at the detriment of the rest of the population and the environment.
The wealth generated through construction, however, is not reaching those at the bottom of society. The increasing demand for food banks is a clear sign of this. An even more worrying sign is the increase in demand for homeless shelters. At first glance these facts do not appear to make sense. How is it possible that those at the bottom are finding it harder to survive from month to month while Malta is becoming more prosperous as a country?
This glaring difference between those at the bottom and at those at the top has an explanation. Through systematic advantages, the rich are making themselves richer than ever by accumulating wealth while preventing it from reaching those at the bottom. The Labour government actively supports this hoarding by its fervent defense of free market policies. Recently, this became evident by Edward Scicluna’s categorical refusal to consider rent controls. Instead, when confronted with the problem of exploding rent prices, the government’s solution was a white paper with a minimum increase in regulations. Thus, the Labour party abides by the rules of developers and landlords at the detriment of vulnerable tenants.
When it comes to Maltese politics, power is consolidated by pandering to the needs of the wealthy. In Malta this involves making sure developers find even less ‘bureaucracy’ than usual, months before the election. The betrayal of the working class is capped off with the refusal to implement a significant increase in the minimum wage. The increase given was structured in such as a way so as to discriminate in favour of the employer. Since the rise is divided over two years, with the first increase being given at the end of the first year of employment, employer can sack the employee before completion of the first year of employment. By doing this the employer can then employ another worker on minimum wage, without having to pay the increase.
The only reason for not extending the benefits of economic growth to destitute parts of the population is to make the rich richer and increase the wealth gap (although defenders of supply-side economics argue that a decreased tax burden encourages business to invest more and produce more employment opportunities).
It is the mandate of any government that identifies itself as centre-left to apply wealth distribution measures. Rather than insisting on growing the economic ‘cake’, a centre-left party must ensure that the cake is cut in a fair manner. At the moment, the ‘cake’ is enjoyed mainly by the wealthy. The social-democratic compromise is administered not by betraying its values, in this case effective social justice, but finding the best way to achieve them. Simply putting more wealth in the hands of the wealthy does not guarantee that living conditions for the bottom part of the population will improve. More direct measures are needed, such as a significant increase in the minimum wage.
Today’s Labour party has little in common with centre-left values. How can a party say it stands for the poor when a tax-avoider like Konrad Mizzi occupies a role in the cabinet? How can they convince us that they seek to improve conditions for the working class when they put all their political energy in securing the profits for the wealthy? Unfortunately, the PL’s neoliberalism is hardly unique. The contemporary political scene is dominated by chameleons, such as Muscat, Trudeau and Macron, who endorse whatever is trendy to collect votes, appearing conservative when needed and progressive at other times. At the core of this belief is the idea that anything is acceptable as long as it propels them to power.
 Galea, F. (2017). L-Istorja tal-Partit Laburista. [Ħamrun]: SKS, p.65
 Il-Ħmar, 26.03.1921, p. 2
 Ellul Galea, K. (1982), Pijunieri tas-Sigurta’ Socjali. Stamperija “Il-Hajja”, p.358
 Cutajar, M. (2011). Storja tal-Partit Laburista. Ħamrun: SKS, p.117
 Cutajar, M. (2011). Storja tal-Partit Laburista. Ħamrun: SKS, p.121