Updated 7.15pm with PL statement
The Malta Union of Teachers has called off Monday's strike after a last-ditch conciliatory meeting with the Education Ministry on Saturday morning.
In a statement, the MUT said it was assured that a proposal to tie teachers' warrants to continuous assessment had been ditched, and a proposed Education Act withdrawn.
Agreement was also reached on clauses regarding qualifications, home school, school licences, board structures and security.
In a press conference last week, the union had raised concerns about the clauses, saying the heads of schools would be made personally responsible for the school licence when they had little control over finances and resources. They had also warned recommended board structures would give the government too much power.
"The educators' issues have started being resolved," the MUT said, adding that more information would be provided in the coming days.
Everybody was a winner once the strike was called off, the ministry said in a statement later.
"Let's look ahead to write a new chapter for the benefit of children, teachers, parents and the country," the ministry said.
On the other hand, the Opposition said the government had to carry out a U-turn because it failed to plan and consult, instead choosing to steamroll over teachers and their union.
The reaction prompted another statement, this time from the Labour which accused the PN or persisting with its "hysterical, negative attitude".
MUT had stormed out of meeting on Friday
The MUT had stormed out of a mediation meeting with the education authorities on Friday, moments after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told reporters that the government was prepared to withdraw a controversial legislative reform of the Education Act.
Educators’ unions this week have come out strongly against a proposal to introduce an element of continuous assessment into the teachers’ warrant system, saying the changes would mean the warrant would no longer be permanent.
The authorities have denied this is the case.
MUT president Marco Bonnici on Friday said it was “unacceptable” that the Prime Minister had disclosed what was being discussed during a conciliation meeting just after it had first been raised behind closed doors.
In a last-minute press conference on Friday evening, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo had said that the government had already written to the Speaker, informing him that it would be withdrawing the reform. This, Mr Bartolo said, was a first in Maltese parliamentary history.
The government, he added, had also written to the MUT informing it that it had moved ahead with the withdrawal and urged them to suspend the strike action “in the best interest of teachers, children and parents”.
Venting his frustration at the situation, Mr Bartolo had turned to journalists and said: “I ask why the MUT are still striking? Why, if the reform has already been withdrawn, are they still going to hold a strike? I don't have an answer.”
Some independent and Church schools sent out e-mails and messages to parents suggesting they keep their children at home or find alternative arrangements in preparation of the strike.
One private school said it was expecting major staff shortages and would not be able to ensure the safety and well-being of children on school grounds during the strike.
Education authorities told the Times of Malta they were aware of the situation, however, when asked what the government would do – including for parents whose children attend State schools – no reply was forthcoming.
A government source had said that plans for logistics in case of a strike had been drafted and would have been communicated today, if the union had gone ahead with the strike action.
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