State schools

Teachers’ union threatens legal action against public schools

Photo: Miguela Xuereb

The Union of Professional Educators (UPE) has warned public school administrators that Kit will take legal action unless they stop harassing its members.

In an unprecedented move, the UPE has sent more than 120 legal letters to all headteachers and headteachers in the public sector warning that legal action will be taken if a union member experiences harassment or discrimination as a result of management actions.

In a statement on Tuesday, the union said the legal letters are identical to the one sent to director general of the directorate of educational services (DES) Emile Vassallo after he allegedly gave instructions to some school leaders to remove the additional duties, such as supervision, of LSEs who followed union guidelines on replacement courses.

In another development last week, the union was told that reading recovery teachers obeying its guidelines had been told they could not attend CPD classes.

“The law of the land applies equally to all. Lady Justice does not discriminate whether one is a school principal, university principal or general manager. For this reason, the union has notified all members of the SMT that any act of discrimination against a worker on the basis of their union membership is a criminal offence.

The UPE has insisted that if such malicious practices continue, it will instruct its legal team to initiate criminal proceedings.

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“The right to protection against discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity is enshrined in Article 45 of the Constitution of Malta. The Constitution further promotes the equal rights of men and women, according to which the State has a special duty to ensure that women workers enjoy the same rights and the same pay for the same work as men,” said said the union.

The UPE added that discriminatory treatment can be considered “any distinction, exclusion or restriction which is not justifiable in a democratic society, including discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, gender, color, disability, religious beliefs, opinion or membership in a trade union or employers’ association.

He said the law is clear and subsidiary legislation 452.95 Equal Treatment in Employment Regulations further expands and strengthens his position.

“It goes without saying that the UPE is an advocate for all grassroots educators and stands ready to bring to justice anyone who blatantly ignores labor laws.”

In a bid to seek an amicable solution, the union said it had attempted to engage in talks with the new permanent secretary at the Department for Education, Matthew Vella, “but a meeting was declined”.

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“One can only wonder if this is how social dialogue works. Unfortunately, this stone wall recalls the intransigence of Mr. Vella’s predecessor.

While noting that Education Minister Clifton Grima is aware of the ongoing rift, the union said it expects the Minister to “take the bull by the horns and resolve the issue based on existing constitutional and legal parameters”.

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