The Malta Independent 10 December 2018, Monday

TMID Editorial: MUT-MCAST dispute - Students worse off

Wednesday, 3 January 2018, 10:33 Last update: about 12 months ago

Like all other workers, teachers have a right to strike. They have the right to protect their interests and battle to improve their working conditions.

But this should not come at the expense of students.

At present, the Malta Union of Teachers is in an industrial dispute with the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology.

It follows another industrial dispute with the Education Ministry in October/November, with the union threatening to go on a general strike for a day on 8 November. The union later withdrew the strike directive – two days before it was due – after a basis of an agreement was found.

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As soon as this issue was over, the MUT embarked on another battle, this time limited to MCAST. Here, too, it threatened to go on strike for a day on 15 December, only to call it off when MCAST submitted its proposals for a revision of the collection agreement.

Two strike threats in two months. Not bad for the new MUT president, Marco Bonnici, elected only last June.

But there is one other issue that few seem to know about. The industrial dispute at MCAST is still on, as the two sides are still to reach an agreement.

Whereas, in the case of the 8 November general strike, the union had lifted all its directives once a basis of an agreement was found, in the case of MCAST it has taken a different approach.

It did call off the strike programmed for 15 December, but it kept other directives in place – and the ones to suffer the most are, of course, the students.

The MUT has justified this stand saying that it is sticking to its other directives so as to keep MCAST in check. But the problem here is not MCAST, or its administration. It is the students who find themselves in the middle of a dispute without any fault at all.

This is hampering their education, and causing unnecessary stress, especially for those students preparing for their examinations or compiling their thesis. Teachers have been ordered not to communicate with students beyond time-tabled lectures and contact hours, not to answer emails and not to use Virtual Leaning Environment, in other words depriving students of much needed attention as well as notes normally available online.

The MUT has taken a very selfish approach in this case. It called off the one-day strike because it would have meant a reduction in their take-home pay, but kept all other directives in place – directives which do not impinge on the teachers but have students as the target. It is the students who are suffering in this dispute; not the administration, and certainly not the teachers.

The MUT – and all other unions, for that matter – should be more careful in directives they give. In this case, it would have been easy for the MUT to limit the directives to matters that pertain to just the administration without adding pressure on the students.

It is hoped that the two sides reach an agreement in the shortest time possible. In the meantime, the MUT should lift all those directives that are hitting students badly.

 

 

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