St Albert College threatens to sue teachers' union as Curia prepares contingency plan

St Albert College is accusing the Malta Union of Teachers of making reckless attempts to sabotage the opening of the scholastic year on Monday in an ongoing dispute following the removal of Mario Mallia as headmaster

Updated at 7pm with MUT statement

St Albert the Great College is threatening to sue the Malta Union of Teachers for damages, while the Maltese Archdiocese is preparing a contingency plan if the school cannot open on Monday.

In a statement, the college accused MUT of making "reckless attempts to sabotage" any efforts towards the opening of the scholastic year on Monday.

MUT declared a trade dispute last month against the Dominican Order and the Catholic Education Secretariat, which is the Maltese archdiocese’s education arm.

The dispute was prompted after the college sacked Mario Mallia, who had been its school head for 16 years. His dismissal, which the college board and rector said was linked to ‘insubordination’, caused an outpouring of support for the popular headmaster who was a champion of inclusivity.

The college and union held a conciliatory meeting on Thursday afternoon in a bid to reach an amicable solution to no avail.

The school said that regardless of the meeting, the MUT is still ordering two of its members to refrain from collaborating with the Head of the Secondary School to help finalise the timetable.

“The College is holding MUT liable for any damages suffered due to its inordinate actions,” it said in a statement.

Earlier, the Archdiocese of Malta said it is preparing a contingency plan to cater for students and staff of St Albert the Great College in case the school is not in a position to function at the beginning of the school year.

The Archdiocese said it spent weeks actively involved in talks to identify a way forward that is acceptable for all concerned parties.

Despite the efforts, it said it was disappointed to see that the issue remains unresolved mere days before the new term, and is now drafting a contingency plan in case talks break down.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese said that parents expressed understandable concern during a recent meeting with Archbishop Charles Scicluna. “He will honour the commitment he made to safeguard the students’ welfare which is, and must remain, our overriding priority.”

MUT slams rector’s statements

Reacting to the rector’s claims, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) said it will not accept that blame be put on educators and their union.

“It was clear from the onset, starting from the dismissal of the Head of School, that the College was taken over by an incompetent rector and board who took all actions to attack their employees and who declared a war against the union representing educators,” it said.

The MUT said that following Mallia’s dismissal, a “vile attack” was carried out on the college’s employees.

“These consisted in: Three legal letters to Assistant Heads of school for participating in a pacific protest. The same legal letters have not been withdrawn to date; A police report followed by the initiation of court proceedings against an employee for a Facebook post criticising the rector; Repeated false assurances, inconsistencies, and reported threatening behaviour which led a considerable number of employees including teachers, LSEs and administrative staff to resign,” the statement read. “A legal letter to the remaining two Assistant Heads, which has been received yesterday, whereby the rector is threatening with police reports, reports to the data commissioner, and legal action for personal liability for following union directive.”

The MUT is also informed that a number of parents have removed their children from the school and transferred them to other schools.

“The latest development came about from the state of panic of the rector, who is not in a position to guarantee teaching and learning of students as from Monday,” the MUT said.

To date, the school does not have a timetable, student allocation in different classes, options groups, LSE allocations and other preparations necessary for the running of the scholastic year, according to the Union.