UPE Articles

Union tells SMT — Clean up your act or face the music!

In an unprecedented move, over 120 legal letters have been sent by the UPE to all the Heads of School and Principals in the state sector advising that legal action will be taken if any Union member experiences harassment or discrimination as a result of Management actions. 

The legal letter is a copy of one that was sent to the Director-General (Directorate for Educational Services – DES) Mr Emile Vassallo after he allegedly gave instructions to some Heads of Schools to remove extra duties, such as supervision, from those LSEs who were following union directives on replacement lessons. In a further development last week, the Union was notified that Reading Recovery teachers obeying directives on deployment had been told that they could not participate in CPD courses.   

The law of the land applies equally to everyone. Lady Justice does not discriminate if one is a Head of School, College Principal or Director-General. For this reason, the Union has advised all members of the SMT that any discriminatory act against a worker on the basis of their union affiliation is a criminal offence. 

The UPE’s position is that if such malicious practice is not discontinued henceforth, the Union will instruct its legal team to initiate criminal procedures against those who are responsible. 

The right to protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity is enshrined in Article 45 of the Constitution of Malta. The Constitution further promotes equal rights of men and women, whereby the State has a particular duty to ensure that women workers enjoy equal rights and the same wages for the same work as men.

Discriminatory treatment may be taken as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction which is not justifiable in a democratic society including discrimination made on the basis of marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, sex, colour, disability, religious conviction, political opinion or membership in a trade union or in an employers’ association”.  

This list is not an exhaustive one, and therefore, the law does not preclude the possibility of other acts constituting discriminatory treatment. In fact, Subsidiary Legislation 452.95 Equal Treatment in Employment Regulations further expands and strengthens this position.

It goes without saying that the UPE is the defender of all grassroots educators and is prepared to bring to justice anyone who flagrantly ignores the employment laws. 

In order to establish an amicable outcome, the Union has tried to discuss the matter with the new Permanent Secretary Mr Vella, but a meeting was declined. One cannot but wonder if this is the way that social dialogue works. Most unfortunately, this stone-walling brings back memories of Mr Vella’s predecessor’s intransigence. 

Dr Clifton Grima, Minister of Education and Sport, is aware of the ongoing rift. The Union expects Dr. Grima to take the bull by the horns and resolve the matter in terms of the existing constitutional and legal parameters.

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