Employers slam union’s move to sue Industrial Tribunal members personally

The Malta Employers’ Association says actions by Union of Professional Educators against Industrial Tribunal members is unethical

The Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) says action taken by the Union of Professional Educators (UPE) against the Industrial Tribunal and its members is unethical, unprecedented, and undermines the proper functioning of the institution.

Last week, members of Malta’s Industrial Tribunal protested a court summons against them personally, in a constitutional case filed by the UPE.

Chairperson Harold Walls and the tribunal’s two members told Prime Minister Robert Abela in a letter, that they were umbraged at being personally held liable in the UPE’s court claim filed by legal counsels Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia.

In a statement, the MEA said any party can ask for the recusal of a member of the tribunal if it proves that there is a conflict of interest, but the decision to name the members of the Tribunal when it filed constitutional proceedings is “unethical”.

“The Industrial Tribunal has always been a respected institution and, although there have been many recommendations to strengthen its role and function by the MEA and other social partners, no one has ever cast a shadow of doubt over the integrity of the chairpersons in their quasi-judicial role, and appointed members.”

The MEA described the move as “another attempt by the UPE to destabilise industrial relations structures in the country to further its own agenda”.

In the original case, filed by the UPE against the Directorate for Educational Services, the union’s legal representatives objected to the first two members of the tribunal. They did not object to the presence of Lawrence Mizzi and Bryony Balzia Bartolo as tribunal members on the complaint, nor requested their recusal. 

The constitutional case, to be heard in January 2024, was filed by the UPE against the State Advocate, the DES, the director of industrial and employment relations, as well as Harold Walls, Lawrence Mizzi and Bryony Balzia Bartolo.

Parliamentary secretary for social dialogue Andy Ellul held a press conference Saturday afternoon, calling the constitutional action on the three members an “unjust and disproportionate attack”, and that the government would support the Tribunal members by financing their legal expenses.