The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: The MUT’s ultimatum

Wednesday, 22 May 2024, 11:15 Last update: about 1 month ago

The Malta Union of Teachers has given an ultimatum to the government.

Unless an agreement is reached on Friday, the MUT will be issuing directives to its members as it seeks to pressure the government to come to terms on a new collective agreement.

The two sides have been negotiating for months.

The situation had escalated late last year, when the deadlock had pushed the MUT to order a one-day strike.

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Since then, the parties appeared to be slowly edging towards an agreement, but now matters have gone awry again and we are close to another set of directives. Whether these will intensify and lead to another strike is to be seen.

No doubt, the government wants to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible, as this industrial unrest in one of the most important sectors is something that Robert Abela and Co. wanted to avoid, even because an election is approaching. The MUT, for its part, is using the 8 June poll as a way to push the government further.

Now we have come to a point when information is being given out by both the government and the MUT in a bid to promote their cause. But, even here, there are huge discrepancies in what one side is saying and what the other is replying.

For example, while the government is underscoring that newly-employed educators will get a €10,000 yearly increase which would take up their starting salary to €36,000, the MUT is insisting that what the government is promising amounts to just €3,000.

There are problems also related to the backdating of the agreement, with the government seemingly indicating the start of 2024 while the MUT is saying that the arrears should date back to January 2023. One other matter that is causing difficulties is the workload that the teachers are expected to carry, with the government seeking more while the union is going for less.

While the government is pushing the narrative that the package that teachers are being offered is the “strongest ever” (what else could it be?), the MUT is arguing that this is still not enough and that what the government is saying is not the truth.

On the one hand, the government knows that other sectors are looking at these negotiations with great interest, given that other professions are in line for their own collective agreements. On the other hand, the MUT understands that this agreement will have to last several years and so it needs to cover all the bases in its attempt to bring home a satisfactory accord.

It is clear that a point of convergence is still far off at this time, although an agreement in the short term cannot be discounted given the circumstances of the day.

This crisis comes at a point when students are preparing for their examinations, and it is hoped that this situation will not be disruptive. We all know that the end of a scholastic year is stressful for educators, students and parents.

Adding more tension is the last thing that is needed.

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