UPE registers industrial dispute, says it’s not viable for schools to open

Union of Professional Educators cites concerns over the reopening of schools in view COVID-19 spike

Union of Professional Educators (UPE) will be issuing an industrial dispute over concerns for educator’s health and safety regarding the impending reopening of schools.

Addressing a press conference, UPE CEO Graham Sansone said the union was concerned over the various issues, which primarily resolved around health and safety, social dialogue and the lack of facilities granted to the union.

“The UPE has stated, time and time again, it is not viable for schools to open in the coming days due to high numbers of COVID-19 positive cases reported. We had also recommended for online lessons to be delivered across the board until COVID-19 positive cases decrease significantly,” he said.

Both the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the Union of Professional Educators (UPE) have called for the government to postpone the reopening of schools.

On Tuesday, 38 new cases of COVID-19 have been registered, bringing the number of active cases on the island to 678.

Sansone said the risk of transmission was currently too high, thus putting their members at immediate unreasonable risk.

“This concern was further confirmed by the minister of education as well as the prime minister himself in television interviews,” he said.

Sansone said that starting from 28 September, the union will also be instructing its members to be increasingly vigilant of the guidelines issued by the Public Health Authorities.

“Once a breach is noted by our members, the union is instructing its members to report the breach to the head of school and leave the classrooms setting with immediate effect. Our members will only be resuming to work as per schedule once the breach has been rectified,” he said.

Sansone said that the UPE is once again calling on the MEDE to exercise social dialogue since the UPE has solutions for the above-mentioned crisis in hand.

“There is confusion, fear, and everything in-between. We have had educators tell us that if the situation is not rectified, they are contemplating resigning from their place of work and leaving the professions. Which as we all know, with the limited number of teachers we have, would be bad for the education system.”

Commenting on the ongoing clash with the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT), Sansone said that the UPE could not sit back and simply wait to take the lead from other unions, and instead needed to act to safeguard its own members. 

“The UPE isn’t what it was in the past, we now have a variety of members across the entire education system. And we are obligated to raise the concerns from our members and to take action where we sit fit,” he said.

Sansone said that the union only raises issues after they are verified, and has done so in every case.

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