The Malta Independent 21 February 2019, Thursday

Environmental health officers lament lack of consultation, discrimination

Sunday, 10 February 2019, 15:05 Last update: about 10 days ago

The Malta Environmental Health Officers Association has complained about a lack of consultation and discrimination by the authorities which, they say, is demotivating its members.

“It all started when the Environmental Health Officers were denied to continue to deliver Food Hygiene courses on a part-time basis. For over 15 years, Officers delivered such courses with all the necessary authorisations. Officers cannot understand the actual reason why they are being discriminated when compared to other officers. As an Association we are against any abuse, but there is blatant discrimination against our profession since other professionals including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and even enforcers or regulators are still allowed to carry out part-time work concerning their job. It is up to the individual to ensure that there is no conflict of interest what so ever,” the association said.

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It added that it had asked to be involved in discussions on the white paper on building regulations, which lacked several details, but no feedback was given.

“An office for the coordination for inspection was set up with one consultation session which actually resulted in more confusion about what was going to happen. The scope of this office was to reduce the inspection burden on businesses, and therefore there was the introduction of numerous checklists sent to the operators to be filled in as self-assessment. Some businesses ended up forking out money to pay consultants so that these are filled in and the Environmental Health Officers ended up collecting information not related to their job such the age of the employees, the product prices, the size of the fish and others.”

The association said also referred to the recent regulation on the sale of the products from school tuck shops, which places the onus for enforcing such law on the Environmental Health Officers.

“During the Christmas period, the Malta Union of Teachers ended up issuing a directive to its members as several people publicly considered the introduction of the law as extremist.”

“During October 2018, a bill to amend the Public administration bill was presented in Parliament. These amendments will change the conditions of work of our profession as it was classified as a high-risk profession without knowing exactly what it entails. The bill also includes that once Officers retire or want to change their job, they cannot work in any area related to his/her work for the previous two years and if someone is in breach, that person has to refund the Government with a three-year salary.

The Government employed the Environmental Health Officers once they successfully completed a diploma in this discipline. Most of the Officers continued their studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science and/or a Masters in the same area. All the Environmental Health Officers have a warrant to practice. With the introduction of the new amendments to the public administration bill, the Environmental Health Officers cannot use their area of expertise outside their current job even after their retirement.”

The association  wrote to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister together with other people responsible for the public service on 20 December 2018 and 10 January 2019.

“When we received no feedback, we had a meeting with UHM on 17 January 2019 whereby we were informed that we would have a chance to discuss the bill at the Committee level. This week we discovered that the committee held two meetings and only a few amendments to the bill were applied and also that this Monday 11 February 2019 there will be the third reading of the law which means that the new bill will come into effect without consulting the parties involved.”

The Malta Environmental Health Officers Association said it feels that the time and the energy invested by the officers for the job that they love is being ignored and therefore continue to demotivate such officers.

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