Teachers have complained about e-mails they received from their superiors asking them to “confirm” their anti-divorce stance.
The e-mails seem to have originated from supporters of the anti-divorce movement, who forwarded an e-mail calling for people to show their “support”.
Heads of school also received the e-mails and some chose to forward them to their school databases, prompting a strong reaction from the Malta Union of Teachers.
One e-mail published by the union says: “We have been asked by Mrs Sonia Camilleri, wife of Andrè Camilleri, who is leading the anti-divorce campaign in Malta, to help them out by sending an e-mail confirming that you are against divorce, giving your names and also, if possible, your mobile (numbers).”
The anti-divorce movement later denied having “originated or circulated” any e-mails to employees at schools or any place of work, saying these were sent at random by “persons” who had asked members of the movement how they could provide support.
“The movement agrees with the statement issued by the MUT that these issues are totally unrelated to work and that any employees wishing to support any movement unrelated to the workplace should do so on their own private initiative and, it would add, not during work hours.”
The MUT had said it was contacted by various people from a number of Church schools and some Mcast institutes complaining about the pressure being placed on them.
“We believe these issues are totally unrelated to work and such e-mails constitute abuse of power,” the MUT said, directing its members not to reply to the e-mails.
“If members want to support any movement unrelated to the workplace they may do so on their own private initiative,” union president John Bencini said, adding such e-mails could pressure teachers to appease their employers and place them in a compromising position.
“The MUT is also asking whether this practice goes against the Data Protection Act.”
Later, Mr Bencini confirmed the e-mails could have been sent by third parties, not members of the movement itself, but condemned those who forwarded to people’s work e-mail addresses.
Contacted for her reaction, pro-divorce movement chairman and lawyer Deborah Schembri condemned the “illegal” and “unacceptable” behaviour. She also said she found it difficult to believe the denial of the anti-divorce movement.
“That’s a good excuse.
But it’s either because I’m a lawyer or because I’m a woman but I’m very sceptical about these tactics and I don’t believe them,” she said, pointing out the e-mail clearly said it was sent on the request of Mrs Camilleri.
Alternattiva Demokratika called for an investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner. It also denounced the “propaganda e-mails”.
“AD demands and expects a level playing field in the public debate on the introduction of divorce in Malta. There are various indications that this is not the case.”
AD chairman Michael Briguglio said data protection laws were already farcically circumvented by the Nationalist and Labour parties, which obtained personal and private data of citizens for their own use.