The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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Government had proposed ‘substantial improvement’ in teachers' working conditions - PM Abela

Sunday, 19 November 2023, 12:37 Last update: about 9 months ago

The government already put forward a proposal that would result in a 'substantial improvement' in the working conditions and wages of teachers, Prime Minister Robert Abela said during a political activity on Sunday, in reference to collective agreement negotiations.

The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) has called a single-day strike for Monday 27 November and has already instituted a number of directives for teachers in State and Church schools, as negotiations for a new collective agreement between the MUT and the government drag on.

On 17 November, the MUT had said that it and the Government were called for a second conciliatory meeting between the sides. "During the meeting the Government presented another financial proposal but this was also deemed unacceptable by MUT and was refused. Attempts to bring the sides together did not result in any tangible solution and it failed to lead to a resolution of the dispute." The MUT had also said that it is still open to any further discussions with the Government to seek a solution and that, meanwhile, industrial action will continue as planned.

Last Sunday, Abela also spoke about teachers, and stressed the importance of responsibility and sustainability in the collective agreement negotiations.

Speaking today, Prime Minister Abela said that the Labour government is a socialist movement that has the workers at heart. He said that the government improved the working conditions of workers in other sectors, and like those sectors, the government wants to work in that direction with regards to teachers.

Abela said that the responsible route to take is the one around the discussion table. "Faultless children shouldn't suffer when we know that the government, at the discussion table, already put forward a very strong proposal for improving the wages and working conditions of teachers. It is a proposal that would result in a substantial improvement, as promised, of teachers' wages and conditions," Abela said. "If the aim is truly educators, I am convinced that we will reach agreement."

He said that people may be asking why he won't reveal what the government's proposal contains, to which Abela said that one must follow the principle of confidentiality in the collective bargaining process at this stage.

Abela noted that the Malta Union of Teachers said it is ready to continue dialogue and sit at the discussion table. "So let us do that responsibly." 

Abela then took aim at the PN, and said it doesn't know what the term responsibility means. "They fired figures from the hip, they tried to disrupt the negotiation process," he said. He said the PN is not interested in teachers, but just in political capital.

Abela said that this government improved the wages through sectoral agreements of many workers,  mentioning the police, nurses and others. "Is there any doubt we won't do the same with teachers?" He said that the government will keep its word.

He said that the government believes that with responsibility and the principle of sustainability, agreement should be reached. "We believe in and appreciate the importance of our educators, but to reach agreement we must also act responsibly and justly."

During the activity, he also spoke about the Opinion of Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella and his proposal that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) should uphold Malta's request to annul the 'return of vehicle' rule in the Mobility Package.

Abela said that in 2020, the EU's Mobility Package was adopted. "Back then nobody anticipated the pandemic, and nobody thought there would be a war," Abela said. "When those regulations came into play, we saw that their impact would automatically mean a strong increase in food prices." The regulations made no sense for member states like Malta, cut off from the mainland, he said.

The Maltese government had taken the decision to challenge the regulations, he said, taking the case to the European Court of Justice. Abela alleged that the regulations were drawn up by the European Parliament in collusion with certain major member states. Describing the impact of those regulations, Abela said that they would mean that a Maltese logistics company trucks carrying goods to vessels which would then be transported to Malta, be it food or other products, would have to spend four weeks in Malta for every eight weeks they spent abroad. This, he said, would have meant an increase in costs for the companies, which would have ended up being borne by the consumers.

"This week, the Attorney General of the EU Court recommended that the court cancel and annul those regulations." Abela said that this was the first step, but eventually the court needs to decide. "This episode shows the importance of having strong representatives who put the country's interests first and not use Malta for their personal position," Abela said.

The Prime Minister also spoke about the United Nations Security Council adopting a Malta-drafted resolution calling for "extended humanitarian pauses" in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Abela said it is hoped it would address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Abela said that while he is satisfied that this resolution got the support it did, he believes the real solution is the two-state solution, with the two states living in peace. For that to happen, he said, three elements are needed. The three elements, he said, are an immediate humanitarian pause, an immediate ceasefire and a lasting peace with a permanent stop to the fighting.

During his speech, Abela also compared the living conditions in Malta to those in other European problemsd, mentioning rising electricity bills in the Netherlands as one example. He also said that Malta's economic growth is forecast to be the highest in the EU.

Abela also announced that the additional COLA mechanism will see cheques to 95,000 people issued in the coming weeks, totaling €13 million.





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