Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has called out wealthy employers who refuse to pay a contribution to a government fund intended to facilitate people with a disability joining the workforce.
Caruana was speaking during a parliamentary debate on legal amendments that would make it possible for the government to enforce a requirement for companies with more than 20 employees to employ at least four individuals with a disability, or instead pay a contribution to the government.
“People would come – I’m not going to mention names Mr Speaker – but they were people who I can assure you, have a heavier wallet than all of us here put together,” Caruana said recalling episodes from his time at JobsPlus.
Prior to being appointed Prime Minister Robert Abela’s chief of staff and subsequently being co-opted to parliament, Caruana held the role of CEO of the national employment agency.
“These are the people in our country who have the most resources. They would sit down in front of you and say, ‘listen, I know I’m not following the law, but I don’t want to pay’,” he continued.
A quick look at these people, Caruana said, and it was easy to notice that they would more often than not be wearing “a watch that is too heavy for most to carry” or “cufflinks that are god knows how expensive”.
“To be defiant, and to show you how defiant they are, they tell you that no, they will not pay the contribution.”
Such an attitude, he said, was hurtful to him because these people “took a lot from the country”, but despite this, they weren’t willing to contribute themselves.
“We weren’t asking for a million Euro or something like €100,000. People who don’t employ a person with a disability are asked to pay a contribution of €2,400. What are €2,400 to a company that has an annual turnover of €30 million?”
As far as Caruana is concerned, such behaviour was a clear attempt at intimidating him.
“I never took it personally, but in reality, their behavior isn’t impacting me, but rather these people and their families,” Caruana said.
Both the government and the Opposition have said they would be supporting the amendment.
What do you make of the minister’s remarks?