The Malta Independent 21 May 2024, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: End in sight for teachers’ plight

Thursday, 11 April 2024, 09:15 Last update: about 2 months ago

The end seems to be in sight for teachers, at least according to what Prime Minister Robert Abela said earlier this week. They are now close to reaching their goal.

The discussions on a new collective agreement with the Malta Union of Teachers are in an advanced stage, he told the media.

There is a chance that the talks could be concluded in a few weeks’ time, he added.

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Maybe before the end of April, we may add, or at most before the European Parliament and local council elections in June.

If that happens, it would be a huge political boost for the government and it will certainly ride the wave as it would have concluded a long and bitter battle with the MUT.

Let us remember that the existing accord between the government and the union expired in 2022, and these two years have not been easy, for both sides. While the MUT was fighting tooth and nail to improve its members’ conditions of work, the government had to see that while demands needed to be met, it needed to take into consideration other sectors in the overall scheme of things so as not to upset a very delicate balance. Needless to say, there are other professionals in government employment and one move in a particular sector could easily lead other sectors to request equal, if not better, treatment.

At one point, last November, the MUT felt it needed to push even further and ordered a one-day strike. It was a make or break situation, given that there was a risk of a total collapse in negotiations, and we were uncomfortably close to reaching that point. But, thankfully, the two sides quickly returned to the table of talks and, since then, there has been progress, so much so that we seem to be heading towards a deal.

Both sides have not been forthcoming with the media as to the details regarding the ongoing discussions. It is clear that they have both chosen to keep quiet so as not to jeopardise the situation and possibly lead to a further delay in the final outcome. That is understandable.

But, once the negotiations are concluded and the deal is signed, it would be expected of them to provide the details of the said agreement, and also explain why it took so long. The bones of contention need to be explained so as to justify the amount of time that was needed for the two sides to come to terms.

What is sure is that the agreement, other than the obvious improvement in the financial package, should see to other matters that teachers are mostly concerned about. One such issue is their safety at school. We have had too many incidents in the recent past which have seen educators being physically manhandled, sometimes by parents and sometimes even by students, simply because they are doing their duty.

Teachers have an essential role in our society, as they are the ones who – together with the parents – are responsible for today’s youngsters who are tomorrow’s adults.

They should be given all the support that they need in this arduous endeavour.

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