Discussions have been held between the UPE its advisors and different stake-holders on the potential impact of the politicians elected to represent the education sector.
The Honourable Clifton Grima has retained the Education portfolio. This was not unexpected since he and his team took over at the Ministry just after the 2021 Christmas holidays. During the intervening period the Union made sure to highlight the need to tackle pending trade disputes including the outcome of the final report published by the Ombudsman. No movement was seen on these issues with the political campaign taking centre stage. However, during the Minister’s campaign, top Ministry officials deliberately attempted to escalate tension with the Union.
The Union does not intend to waste its members’ time. Industrial action may be the next step if matters do not move forward very soon. The issue centres not around the Minister himself, but a small band of Ministry officials. The Minister’s remit must be to see that true social dialogue is undertaken by his officials, who, for the record, are public servants. That is, to serve the interests of the public and not engage in petty political games.
Minister Grima’s performance in the field of industrial relations will be tested in the coming months due to the negotiation of the new collective agreement. It is hoped that he will make a positive impact.
The other side
On the other side of the political divide, the position of Shadow Education Minister is likely to be given to Justin Schembri or Julie Zahra.
It is worth noting that Justin Schembri has never fully acknowledged in public the UPE’s work in the education sector. Having at one time been the President of the MUT youth section and the fact that he is known to be a close friend of the current MUT President could explain his lack of enthusiasm for praising the sterling work the UPE has accomplished.
Justin Schembri has been seeking the role of spokesperson for the Opposition for quite a while. A glance at his daily Facebook posts reveals his intentions. Some of his ideas spell out drastic reforms in the sector at the expense of educators. Educators are reform-fatigued after the introduction of various reforms by the previous Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri. If more reforms projected by this MP are reflected in parliament, the UPE will have grave reservations and will definitely speak out publicly for the benefit of its members.
Julie Zahra seems to be a moderate on the political spectrum. She has the ability to get the message across without creating too much turbulence in the sector. Although she has not expanded her ideas on the country’s education needs, the Union is interested to hear her views on matters that are currently frustrating educators at large.
Overall it is good to see that many more educators have sought to enter national politics. Educators’ voices have to be heard in the nation’s highest political institution. Finally.
In the meantime, we again send our congratulations to the Hon Clifton Grima.
We look forward to working with any and all politicians working in favour of educators.