I refer to the article entitled ‘Effectively shutting down Church schools’  by Alan Deidun, (October 21).

The article contains everything but the truth related to the current situation in schools and is wrongly blaming the union for many of the current issues. The MUT has been at the forefront in taking the lead to discuss and to act upon both educational and trade union matters with all employers since the onset of the pandemic. The attack is clearly based on ulterior motives, links and well-known interests and is directed at a union which is defending the rights of its members instead of towards a system that needs to be fixed.

The MUT represents all sectors in both state and non-state schools up to tertiary education and does not distinguish in its approaches with respective sectors.

It declared disputes and ordered directives during the past years in all sectors. Similarly, it has signed collective agreements in all sectors including Church and the great majority of independent schools.

The MUT is continuously discussing with the entire sector and it stands proud of its successes and of its representation in non-state schools.

The article refers to online learning, reproducing a claim that the union is against such learning. The MUT and its members shifted to online teaching in March when it was the MUT who made the request to the government to close schools at the time. However, online learning includes various modes, some of which expose the educator and students to unnecessary risks.

As a trade union, the MUT will never accept the introduction of practices without any consideration and discussion at the expense of blatant breach of the agreements in place and with schools completely disregarding their own employees.

The MUT stands proud of its successes and of its representation in non-state schools

Furthermore, in the case of Church schools, the dispute was caused by the decision of these schools to multiply the workload of educators without any consultation or consideration when they decided to alternate attendance of students and create an unmanageable system for educators. All these schools did to cater for their new services is to seek the easiest solution by multiplying the workload of educators, which is unsustainable and irresponsible.

Throughout these past months, the MUT sought and discussed many different solutions, from an online service proposed last March, which later became known as Teleskola, to a proposal for a virtual online school to provide teaching and learning to students who are vulnerable and are not attending schools. Other solutions are being discussed and certainly it will again be the MUT and educators who shall make up for the ill-decisions and deficiencies of the system.

Obviously, the union would have wished for the timely decisions earlier in summer but the delay of protocols and central decisions is a known fact which can surely not be attributed to the MUT. However, it is now no use crying over spilt milk and the MUT looks forward to seeing the implementation of measures that respect both students and educators.

In conclusion, we can assure the author that most educators did step out of their modus operandi to adapt their academic and pedagogical systems and to make sure that all health and safety measures needed are in place. However, what they cannot accept is that employers, being it state, Church or independent, use self-declared influencers to point fingers at them or the union that represents them for misgivings which are completely out of their own control.

It is the responsibility of an employer to come up with acceptable systems to have online and physical schools working concurrently and the MUT will be there to make sure this does not happen at the expense of its own workforce.

Marco Bonnici is president of the Malta Union of Teachers.

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