[WATCH] Updated | MUT will not allow the creation of ‘second class’ lecturers at MCAST

The teachers’ union is accusing the college’s administration of a lack of goodwill, insisting that further industrial action was not being excluded • MCAST says it presented union with six improved packages, to no avail

MUT addressed a press conference outside the college during a two-hour strike (Photo: James Bianchi)
MUT addressed a press conference outside the college during a two-hour strike (Photo: James Bianchi)
MUT will not allow the creation of ‘second class’ teachers at MCAST

Updated at 2.30pm with MCAST reaction

The Malta Union of Teachers has accused the Malta College for Arts Science and Technology of putting forward proposals that would effectively divide academic staff at the college into first-class and second-class lecturers. 

The proposal, which MUT president Marco Bonnici said had not been communicated in writing, would see the conditions of lecturers with certain qualifications, matched with those of lecturers at Junior College. 

MUT president Marco Bonnici during the strike (Photo: James Bianchi)
MUT president Marco Bonnici during the strike (Photo: James Bianchi)

Bonnici said however that MCAST provided a number of vocational courses, the importance of which had also been stressed by the government in recent months. He said the proposal would mean that a lecturer joining MCAST today, with the present necessary qualifications, would be automatically entitled to better conditions that a lecturer who joined 16 years ago. Qualification requirements for lecturers at the college have been raised over the years. 

The union is currently locked in talks with MCAST over a new collective agreement, after the previous one expired in May of last year. 

Addressing a press conference outside the college during a two-hour strike by the college’s lecturing staff, Bonnici, said the industrial action was called because talks with MCAST had failed. 

He said the MUT had been in talks with the college since July 2017, with the union having issued an ultimatum back in November, with the union registering an industrial dispute shortly after.  

"Then in January, the union’s right to industrial action was disrupted by MCAST through a court injunction,” said Bonnici. "The injunction meant we had to stop talks with MCAST.”

The inunction was withdrawn in February, with MCAST stating it had chosen to do so as a sign of good will to the union, however Bonnici stressed that the withdrawal had only taken place because it because clear the college was set to lose the case. 

The industrial action was called because talks with MCAST had failed. (Photo:James Bianchi)
The industrial action was called because talks with MCAST had failed. (Photo:James Bianchi)

A number of conciliatory meetings have not resulted in any concrete progress, Bonnici said. MCAST had made a number of last minute suggestions in a bid to avoid industrial action, however, none of which were made in writing.

He said that the union had presented MCAST with the financial package it was seeking to obtain for its members, yet MCAST was insisting on picking and choosing which aspects of that package it would concede to. “The package can’t be reduced to single items, it’s a package.”

Bonnici stressed that MCAST’s academic staff were united in their resolve to obtain a better package across the board, insisting that up to 90% of staff had followed industrial action. 

The union boss said that another two-hour strike was scheduled to take place tomorrow but didn’t not exclude further industrial being taken. A decision would likely be taken on Monday, he said, adding that there was no scheduled meeting with MCAST at the current time.

Yesterday, MCAST released a statement saying that they had proposed to further improve the salary package and working conditions, however MUT had refused the offers.

“While MCAST is constantly showing a positive attitude to find a fair and just solution, MUT insists on changing the goal posts every time a step towards a solution is made,” MCAST had said.

“In fact, over the last week, every new additional proposal made by MCAST during conciliation meetings has been rejected by MUT.”

MCAST says it has matched package enjoyed by Junior College lecturers

Addressing a press confernce later in the day, MCAST president Silvio De Bono made a case for the financial package being offered to lecturing staff, saying the college had effectively matched conditions enjoyed by Junior College lecturers.

MCAST president Silvio De Bono said the college remained open to continue negotiations with the MUT
MCAST president Silvio De Bono said the college remained open to continue negotiations with the MUT

He refuted claims that offers made by the college were not sent in writing, noting that the only offer that was not in writing had been made a senior government official, and not MCAST, during a meeting earlier this week. 

The official suggested that if the MUT wanted MCAST to apply the same standard, it would have to do so in its entirety, something De Bono said was not in the college lecturers' best interest. He explained that Junior College conditions were based on qualifications and the vocational nature of some of MCAST's courses meant that not all lecturers would be able to proceed beyond a certain point.

He said MCAST remained open to further discussions with the union, noting that MUT had chosen to strike, despite the last collective agreement stating this could only happen if both sides declared a deadlock.

He said the college had presented the union with six improved packages, each coming closer to its demands.

"We have done this not only because MUT has made them, but because we believe in the permeability of MCAST and other post secondary institutions," said De Bono. "Our intention today is not to make the situation worse, but to sit round a table and conclude this agreement as soon as possible."

According the MCAST's final offer, the highest earning senior lecturer grade would earn €38,453 in 2019, compared to the €37,624 being earnt by lecturers in the same grade at Junior College. Junior College lecturers' collective agreement expires in 2018.

De Bono said that MCAST had also agreed to a reduction in contact hours, as well as an increase in the hourly rate for extra duties and an increase in allowances.

De Bono acknowledged that MCAST lecturers were demanding a greater reduction in hours, as well as better rates but insisted  that he also needed to ensure that any package offered was financially sustainable for the school.

He said that despite being disappointed at MUT's actions, the college did not want to take an aggressive position and was willing to meet with the union whenever it wanted to resume talks.

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