In a clear attempt to intimidate UPE members, Ministry officials, at the behest of the Permanent Secretary, Dr Frank Fabri, have been visiting teachers who have adhered to union directives. Mr Emile Vassallo, Director General (Directorate for Educational Services – DES), Mr Jude Zammit, Director General (Curriculum, Lifelong Learning and Employability) and Ms Lucienne Calleja, Director for Educational Resources, yesterday visited various schools after the fallout of Thursday’s events at the Ministry.
The Union has written to the Education Minister, the Hon. Justyne Caruana, to assess the current state of affairs. To all intents and purposes, it would appear that the Ministry is being run by the Permanent Secretary. This certainly seemed to be the case under her immediate predecessors.
Unfortunately, there is presently no communication on the matter between the Ministry and the UPE, a situation that we wish to redress without delay.
The question that needs to be posed and answered is this — Who is actually calling the shots, the Permanent Secretary or the Minister? Reliable sources report that the situation has reached the point where the top Ministry officials internally refer to the Permanent Secretary as “Il-Ministru Fabri”.
If one looks at the broader picture, the latest series of events, including Friday’s intimidatory tactics, impact negatively on teacher recruitment and continue to reinforce the unparalleled shortage of educators:
- The Ministry’s lack of a basic understanding of industrial relations and its complete resistance to educators’ fundamental rights;
- Resorting to frivolous legal action in order to muzzle the Union’s work in spite of the Courts refusing to accede to the Ministry’s baseless legal motions time and again;
- The Ministry’s abhorrence of social dialogue and industrial democracy and its regimen to maintain a closed-shop set-up contrary to the word and spirit of Maltese law;
- The Permanent Secretary’s promotion of tactics in schools which are tantamount to intimidation of those union members exercising their fundamental right of freedom of association and the right to follow legitimate union directives.
Given the above, an observer cannot but ask if these acts really have the Minister’s blessing. Or are we are witnessing a top civil servant running the Ministry in the manner of Sir Humphrey Appleby of ‘Yes Minister’ fame?
The UPE reasonably expects the Hon. Justyne Caruana as Minister of Education to assume full responsibility for the running of her ministry. Moreover, it is well overdue for the Minister to begin to mend the bridges her Permanent Secretary appears intent on destroying permanently.
The Union Executive is meeting urgently to decide what further action/s should be undertaken.