The Malta Independent 26 February 2024, Monday
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TMID Editorial: The strike has passed, now focus on finding agreement

Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 11:57 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Malta Union of Teachers and the government have agreed to continue discussions around the negotiating table, with the union saying that it will suspend directives for State and Church schools from today.

The two have been at loggerheads over a sectoral agreement for educators, with the government claiming to have offered a ‘substantial improvement’ in working conditions, and the union saying that what was proposed was not good enough. The details of the offer have been kept secret.

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A one-day strike for State and Church school teachers took place on Monday. “Following the overwhelming participation of 97% of educators in the strike in State Schools and in Church Schools, MUT Officials were called for an informal meeting Monday afternoon," the union said in an evening statement. "The informal meeting between the MUT and the Education Ministry discussed the current situation regarding the sectoral agreement, with particular emphasis on the divergence between both sides on the financial package and the government's pledge to provide a substantial increase. A run through of the status of negotiations on the sectoral agreement was carried out, listing the stages of negotiations, the difficulties of the process and possible solutions. The MUT and the Education Ministry identified the priority areas of the discussions and the possible ways to seek common grounds. Both sides agreed upon a scheduled list of meetings to continue negotiations," the union said.

The fact that both sides are now going back to the negotiating table is a good thing. The last thing this country needs is a prolonged dispute with directives in place and strikes occurring, and one hopes this can be avoided. The union has a right to strike of course, but a prolonged dispute would be detrimental to the children. That is why both sides must do all they can to reach agreement and find the middle ground they can agree on.

The suspension of directives does not mean that this is the end of the situation. The union specifically said that it will attend the new round of discussions starting from this week and shall be reinstating industrial action should discussions fail.

Those discussions must not fail.

One hopes that what the government is offering and will offer the union will not be some token increase, after all, in its electoral manifesto the government made a pledge to ‘significantly’ improve educator’s wages. And teachers deserve good wages. In an opinion article published in the Malta Independent on Sunday, MUT President Marco Bonnici highlighted the challenges teachers face in today’s society, and they aren’t small.

At the same time, one hopes that the union is being realistic and not asking for something the government cannot give.

To find agreement, it is likely both sides will need to give a little, and that is what must happen around the negotiating table. The agreement between government and the union must be a fair one that gives teachers the financial package that they deserve for their hard work, and must also ensure that the best and brightest are attracted to the profession.

 

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