Things got heated at the Education Ministry yesterday following a clash between the ministry’s permanent secretary Frank Fabri and Union of Professional Educators head Graham Sansone.
What followed was a breakdown in negotiations before they could even begin, with the union head leading a small group of teachers out of the building.
This all started with a dispute between the UPE and the Ministry over peripatetic teachers (teachers who teach music, art and PE) who were informed they would have to teach regular lessons at primary schools this year.
Both the Malta Union of Teachers and the UPE instituted industrial action against this decision, but while the MUT dropped its directives last week, the UPE kept theirs in force.
UPE executive head Graham Sansone said that its peripatetic teacher members who are following these directives were individually summoned to the Education Ministry to discuss their “services at schools”.
They contacted the UPE, which decided to turn up at the Ministry along with its members.
According to the UPE, this didn’t go down well with Frank Fabri.
“Dr Fabri appeared to be taken aback to see the UPE executive in the foyer of the Ministry building and proceeded to tell him that he would like to talk to the teachers without a union representative,” Sansone said.
“The Union insisted that it should be present during the entire meeting to protect its members’ interest. Since Dr Fabri did not accept the principle of union representation, and, by extension, protection, and given his intransigence, UPE members were instructed to leave the building immediately.”
Sansone said the UPE is appalled by Fabri’s “gung-ho attitude” and “blatant and deliberate disregard for union directives which have been proven in a court of law to be legitimate”.
He therefore urged Education Minister Justyne Caruana to intervene as soon as possible before “irreparable damage” is done to the relations between ministry and union.
Questioned about this incident by Lovin Malta, Fabri said that both the Education Ministry and the UPE should seek to prioritise students’ interests above all other concerns.
“While we understand that a union represents its members and wants to defend their rights, the main interest of both the Education Ministry and the union is to ensure that students are given the best possible education, which is certainly by educators, face to face in classrooms,” he said.
“It is normal for disagreement to arise sometimes on the balance that must be struck between safeguarding and defending the requests of union members and ensuring that students aren’t negatively impacted by actions. Students’ rights to education should never be sidelined.”
“It isn’t opportune for those who have the students’ best interests at heart to expand on some hiccups or disagreements that may arise between the parties. One would hope that common sense reigns and that a solution is found in the best interest of students.”
Cover photo: Left: Graham Sansone, Right: Frank Fabri
What do you think of the dispute?