The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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‘We’re not intentionally making students suffer’ – MCAST lecturer

Tuesday, 25 June 2024, 09:55 Last update: about 21 days ago

An MCAST lecturer has batted back at criticism that industrial action which college educators are following is making students suffer, saying that this isn’t being done intentionally and that lecturers have been put in an unfair situation owing to a long-expired collective agreement.

The directives at MCAST have been in place since 10 May after talks over a new collective agreement had failed. The directives meant that staff were, amongst other measures, ordered not to divulge assessment marks to students and the college itself.

The MCAST collective agreement expired two and a half years ago, and the MUT had already issued similar directives back in January, but suspended them as talks seemed to progress. Progress however, has halted, leaving the MUT to issue renewed directives.

A lecturer who posted on Facebook said that they are not intentionally making students suffer.

“That was never the case. Contrary to most people's beliefs, we actually care deeply about our students. I feel bad on a daily basis, especially for those who are graduating this year,” the lecturer said.

“However, given the circumstances, many lecturers are being put in financial strain, and it's not fair that we're always seen as the bad guys. I'm sure everyone would also be protesting if their wages were being held hostage,” they continued

“Why does nobody care about the lecturers in this situation?”

The lecturer delved into why there is an industrial dispute in the first place: the collective agreement covering MCAST staff expired more than two and a half years ago.

“It's long overdue, and we're still getting paid with a projected wage from over 5 years ago. This means before COVID happened, and before inflation went through the roof,” the lecturer said.

“All we want is for a new collective agreement to be signed. This was supposed to have happened over 2 years ago and we're still waiting. In the hopes of making things move along faster, MUT has given us a set of directives to follow,” the lecturer explained.

“Just to put things into perspective, other schools and colleges get more money than us for lecturing at lower levels. There's as much as an €18,000 difference per person per year in salary. This is utterly ridiculous and is beyond offensive to our studies and abilities,” they continued.

The lecturer continued that this doesn’t even count overtime, free health care (which they are not eligible for), the work resources (which are thousands more than MCAST lecturers get), and extra pay for any dissertation mentorship, which isn’t extra for them.

“Wouldn't you be upset if people were getting paid more to do far less work at a lower level than you?”

The directives, the lecturer said, is not a strike. “We're still doing all the work, but we're not making marks public, nor communicating with admin or students at the time being. This also means that all the work we usually do voluntarily (like open days and certain exhibitions) are not going to happen until directives are lifted.”

The lecturer criticised certain media reportage on the situation. They clarified that first and foremost MCAST does not fall under the same agreement as the teachers in primary and secondary schools – which was the agreement that hit the headlines during the electoral campaign and which was eventually put on hold after MUT members appeared unhappy with the terms offered.

“Their agreement expired long after ours did, but yet the government decided to tackle that one first, and now all the talks have come to a halt since after the elections,” the lecturer said.

The lecturer further said the agreement that was on the table for primary and secondary schools seemed to imply that LSEs with an MQF level 5 certificate – which is a step below a Bachelor’s Degree – would be making more than an MCAST lecturer would.

Some media outlets, the lecturer said, were painting lecturers in a bad light “and hammering home the idea that we're making the student's pay for an internal dispute.”

The lecturer noted one particular news site which reported that the lecturers were supposedly asking for €100 an hour.  The report, which the lecturer described as “ridiculous” and “absurd” was published by Instagram-based outlet Sidestreet Malta, and was deleted soon after.

Attention on the situation at MCAST has increased as the election headlines subsided, with the Ombudsman’s Commissioner for Education – and students who are suffering the consequences – urging for the dispute to be resolved.

Earlier this week, The Malta Independent also spoke to 10 MCAST students studying various courses at the institute about the impact that the directives have had on them, and all gave a similar story detailing the frustration of having had exams continuously postponed, of being left in the dark, and of – in some cases – not even knowing whether they’ve graduated or not.

Errata corrige: It was initially reported that the lecturer's comments were sent to The Malta Independent. There was an internal miscommunication and the article has been corrected to state that the lecturer's comments were posted on Facebook. 


 

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