Education and Educators
The Union of Professional Educators (UPE) notes that once again the national budget overlooks the key stakeholders in the education sector — educators. Beyond the customary empty political rhetoric, educators will not experience any real improvement in their salaries or working conditions as a result of this budget. Conspicuously, the budget fails to address in any way the massive shortage of educators our country is currently experiencing. In practical terms, this means educators are going to continue to be stretched to the limit to make up for the lack of human resources in the sector while receiving the same miserly salary the government agreed with the Malta Union of Teachers in 2017. Clearly, the Establishment is comfortable in the knowledge that the MUT will not challenge the appalling working conditions similar to those found in low-income countries.
Workers in general and front-liners in the COVID Pandemic
The UPE expected this budget to give tangible and material incentives to workers, especially front-liners and other workers, such as educators who continued to provide their services during the height of the pandemic. None has been forthcoming. It is pertinent to remind the powers that be that even amid the ravages and chaos of the Second World War, Maltese workers were incentivised with bonuses or allowances for their valiant efforts. Today’s workers have not received any incentive — just the occasional and cynical pat on the back. During the pandemic, while all efforts were directed to keep private enterprise afloat, other workers were abandoned to their own devices, so much so that in many instances, they had to struggle to retrieve the state-subsidised portion of their wages from their employers.
Unfair and Disproportionate Distribution of Wealth and State-Aid
Within this context, the UPE reiterates that Budget 2022 is symptomatic of social and economic policies which over-value private enterprise at the expense of workers. The UPE does not object to state-aid to private enterprise provided this is directly tied to socio-economic measures set to improve the conditions of workers and encompasses the common good. The fundamental principle of business is that the entrepreneur gets all the profit because they assume all the risk. This pandemic has shown us that this is not true as many businesses were kept running through the life-line of state-aid. It goes without saying in a fair and just society that government’s responsibility is to ensure that the assistance given to private enterprise does not end up in the deep pockets of the private sector to the detriment of the ‘average Joe’ tax-payer and worker. The imbalance created must also be further redressed by giving workers similar state-aid and not espousing the false doctrine of “trickle-down economics”.
Lastly, the UPE cannot accept that the conditions of work of educators — and indeed all other workers– should continue to be overlooked. Just as the education sector is experiencing a run-down, other sectors will follow suit. If cheap labour continues to take root, the educational standard of our population will nose-dive. We all know the consequences. It is time for government to wake up from its slumber and to invest directly and wisely in educators and other workers in similar ways and by the same magnitude it invested in private enterprise.