The Malta Union of Teachers and the Union of Professional Educators have separately declared an industrial dispute with the government over its handling of COVID-19 in schools.

In a press conference at the MUT offices in Ħamrun, MUT president Marco Bonnici told reporters that the rapidly spreading COVID-19 variants “changed the situation in schools completely” and with evidence that children are catching and transmitting variants, the government must “take responsible decisions” given the increased risk posed to the health of educators, school staff and families. 

“As long as there is no herd immunity, the virus will continue to be transmitted in the community and so every measure that can be implemented must continue to be enforced by the government to curb the pandemic,” Bonnici said. 

“However we are seeing an opposite scenario where the number of new infections is rising daily and it is clear that there is no control over the situation.”
Referring to the switch to online learning at the Higher Secondary, Bonnici said that the decision confirmed that action needed to be taken to address the spread of the virus in schools, but that there should be no distinction in the ages of pupils and that schools should work to implement the appropriate measures, based on advice from the health authorities in tandem. 
Bonnici said that the union had decided to lodge this dispute based on the discrepancy in decision making on pandemic prevention protocols in schools.

He added that the MUT would be meeting Health Minister Chris Fearne and Education Minister Justyne Carunaa on Wednesday afternoon to discuss their proposals and the way forward. Bonnici added that the MUT council would also be meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the matter in more detail. 
Bonnici also noted that while the vaccination program for educators was underway, a large number had still not received appointments for immunisation. 
Asked whether the union would be proposing a switch to online learning, even for a short period until the Easter recess, Bonnici said that while the union wanted to keep lines of dialogue open with the government, it wanted to see what measures the government is willing to implement. 
“That being said, returning to some form of online schooling is among the options we are looking at,” Bonnici said. 

The Union of Professional Educators said the latest virus numbers were cause for alarm.

It said that schools are facing problems owing to the absence of educators who are either unwell or in quarantine.

"Schools are not in a position to operate as would be required, and as our students deserve.  For this reason the union calls for immediate action to be taken by the government to safeguard the population and to place the well-being of the citizen at the forefront of any decisions taken." 

The union earlier this week said schools should close and revert to online teaching. 

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