Owen Bonnici calls out ‘militant unions’ in run-up towards schools reopening

Education Minister Owen Bonnici appeals for maturity from teachers’ unions

Education Minister Owen Bonnici
Education Minister Owen Bonnici

Education Minister Owen Bonnici has said that teachers’ union were fighting among themselves to see who was more militant in the run up towards the reopening of schools.

Bonnici was speaking on the situation in schools following their reopening earlier this month.

He said the unions, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the Union of Professional Educators (UPE), were in a race among themselves to see who can suggest the harshest measures.

According to the minister, the unions were adamant on not having a physical return to schools.

“For us this was a non-negotiable decision. Children must return,” he said.

Bonnici said that the physical return not only helps the academic aspect of teaching, but also the developmental one.

“This is not the time to engage in a race for who can enrol the most members. It is our children who will be affected negatively,” he said.

Bonnici said that while with the MUT there is some sort of mutual respect, the education minister hit out at the UPE for constantly rolling out directives without even having official recognition.

“This is a time for maturity,” he said.

He also hit out at the opposition for sitting on the fence when reacting to the opening of schools.

“At a time when we needed unanimous parliamentary backing, the opposition was nowhere to be seen,” he said.

Just today the UPE issued additional directives with an ultimatum before further action is taken, after discussions with authorities fell through.

"The UPE regretfully has to say that, until now, the discussions held have not been fruitful," their statement reads. "The ministry blamed the health authorities, saying that it is ultimately their remit to take the decision, and likewise from their end, the health authorities brushed off all form of responsibility on the matter onto the ministry of education," the union said.

The union met with the Ministry of Education yesterday morning to discuss school closures and an immediate move towards online learning, but these discussions fell through.

"From the end of the ministry, all that was offered to the UPE was more vague responses rather than a show of true concern for the educational sector," UPE said.

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