Therapists file protest against UHM over pre-electoral agreement

33 allied healthcare professionals file a judicial protest claim the UHM betrayed their interest in a sectoral agreement and memorandum of understanding signed between the Union and the Health Department weeks before the March 2013 elections.

33 physiotherapists and occupational therapists within the Health Department have filed a judicial protest against the secretary-general of the Union Haddiema Maghqudin, Josef Vella, accusing the union of betraying their rights as members.

The professionals say a pre-election agreement on 14 February prejudiced their position when the union consented to the fragmentation of the department that nullified the rights the therapists had acquired.

They said the memorandum of understanding had changed previously established criteria that guaranteed the therapists’ advancement in the health sector. A one-time offer to allow eligible applicants to advance from Salary Scale 9 to Salary Scale 7 within three months, had been only applicable to a few therapists, the plaintiffs complained.

They also said that they had lost their seniority, allowing applicants with less experience to advance into a position that was higher than that of their seniors’ – both in title, rank and salary.

“Prior to the agreement, it was common practice that experienced staff occupied positions without having academic qualifications. This never interfered with their jobs, yet now they have been brushed aside to make way to those who have academic qualifications but lack experience,” the applicants said.

They said that whilst those who concluded their Masters Degree in February were given the opportunity to apply for Salary Scale 8 or Salary Scale 7, after three months and without an interview; those who finished their course in April, or are still reading for their Masters Degree will be allowed to apply for Scale 8 but can only advance to Salary Scale 7 after five years and following an interview. A number of Assistant Principals lost their rank and grade due to this new structure.

“All this was done without any consultation with the workers and with a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. If the Union had a conflict of interest there were other ways to address this, such as the formation of a house union,” the applicants said.

The judicial protest also read that the applicants hold UHM officials Josef Vella and Gian Paul Gauci, personally responsible for their losses. Lawyer Tonio Azzopardi signed the protest.

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