Frustrated and angry teachers: ‘Why did we even strike?’

Educators tell MaltaToday they are growing increasingly impatient over the lack of information from their union and government on sectoral agreement talks • Financials still being discussed 

Teachers went on strike for one day last November but since then no agreement has yet been reached over improved pay and work conditions (File photo)
Teachers went on strike for one day last November but since then no agreement has yet been reached over improved pay and work conditions (File photo)

Amid growing frustration, educators remain none the wiser about their union’s demands for better pay and work conditions more than two months after striking. 

They also do not know what the Education Ministry is offering as sectoral agreement talks drag on into the second month of 2024. 

Teachers and learning support educators (LSE) who spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity expressed frustration with the Malta Union of Teachers for withholding information about its demands in the ongoing talks with the government. 

But they are also angry at the government for what they believe is procrastination to give educators the substantial pay increases promised in the 2022 election. 

“We don’t know why we went on strike in November because more than two months later we have no visibility as to what the MUT is demanding and what the government is offering,” a primary school teacher said. 

She was one of thousands of educators who took part in a one-day strike last November ordered by the MUT after a breakdown in talks. Strike action impacted all government and church schools. 

The teacher lamented the fact that questions put to the union are met with silence or calls for patience. 

“Patience is running out; we lost a full day’s pay to go on strike and we still do not have an agreement that ensures a higher take-home pay,” she added. 

A newly qualified teacher starting at the lowest rung would be earning around €27,500 this year, including allowances. This amounts to around €1,750 per month after taxes are deducted. Data compiled by Eurydice, the European Commission’s education research arm, and published last year shows that in 2021 the starting salary of a teacher in Malta was below the European average. 

Another teacher said the situation is leading to lack of motivation among educators. 

“Everyone speaks about the importance of education for society and the economy and yet here we are, more than a year after our sectoral agreement lapsed, waiting for the government to put the money where its mouth is,” she said. “It feels like we are not appreciated and this is demotivating.”  

An LSE said that after dealing with the complex issues of children in her care she goes home to find her take-home pay has been eroded by the cost of living. 

“Handling children with difficulties and sometimes having to deal with uncooperative parents leaves its toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. The least we expect is appreciation for the work we do by being paid well,” she said. 

The LSE expressed frustration over the MUT’s silence and insisted educators be given the chance to review and approve any agreement before it is signed. 

“I don’t know what the union is negotiating. I trust it is good for us but I expect to have a vote on any financial package agreed with the education ministry,” she added. 

Another LSE blamed the government for the protracted talks. 

“Is the government waiting for the election before it announces an agreement? Will we even be paid arrears for the months we have spent without a sectoral agreement?” 

Her last question is weighing heavily on the minds of many educators even though the government has said any agreement will be backdated to last year.

Financial still being discussed

Education Minister Clifton Grima insists government is sticking to its word and educators will get a 'substantial' increase in their pay packet
Education Minister Clifton Grima insists government is sticking to its word and educators will get a 'substantial' increase in their pay packet

So far, the union and government have remained mum on what is being discussed. No financial information has been disclosed. 

Contacted by this newspaper, Education Minister Clifton Grima insisted the government will stick to its pledge to offer educators a “substantial increase”, however he stopped short of divulging any numbers. 

“Talks never stopped. We have increased the frequency of meetings and we have charted out a way forward for the next few weeks. I wish to conclude within the next two months. We’ve made a lot of progress on several issues but the financials are still being discussed,” Grima said. 

Asked whether the agreement will include arrears, the minister confirmed it will be backdated to last year. 

The sectoral agreement agreed in 2017 expired in December 2022. The agreement concerns the specific conditions, including allowances, of teachers, learning support educators and kindergarten educators working in State and church schools. 

Attempts to contact the union for this story proved futile but on Thursday the MUT communicated with its members that a timetable has been established with the respective ministries and educational entities for the conclusion of negotiations on several agreements. 

The union is currently engaged in talks on the sectoral agreement for educators in state primary and secondary schools, and separate collective agreements with the Institute for Education, MCAST and the Institute for Tourism Studies. 

It said that a series of “intensive meetings” have been scheduled. 

“These shall lead to the conclusion of respective agreements followed by the presentation of the agreements to affected members, through the procedure stipulated by Statute,” the MUT said. 

It added that should negotiations fail at any stage the union will instruct members to initiate industrial action. 

“At this stage and until these processes are concluded, the operations of the union shall be focused exclusively on agreements… Members are requested to be patient in this particular phase,” the MUT said.

In subsequent comments sent to this newspaper, MUT President Marco Bonnici insisted the union could not disclose parts of the agreement until everything is agreed, promising that members will get to vote on the package once it is concluded.

READ ALSO: Union cannot disclose agreement details until ‘everything is agreed upon’, MUT chief says

Starting salaries for 2024

Position Scale Starting salary (€)
Head of school 5 31,681
Assistant head of school 6 29,805 
Senior education support practitioner 8 26,417
Teacher 9 24,854
KGE III 10 23,376
LSE III 10 23,376
KGE II 12 20,572
LSE II 12 20,572
LSA 13 19,224
KGE I 15 16,662
LSE I 15 16,662

These salaries are based on the government scales published in the budget estimates for 2024. They exclude all allowances. Teachers are eligible for an annual qualification allowance, while all teachers, LSEs and KGEs receive a class allowance that depends on the salary scale and number of service years, and a work resources allowance.