Updated | Union orders teachers not to inspect school lunches

Malta Union of Teachers registers industrial dispute over new legal notice on food consumption in schools, which effectively means educators are responsible for monitoring students' lunches 

A new legal notice has laid out a number of new rules intended to get school children to eat healthier
A new legal notice has laid out a number of new rules intended to get school children to eat healthier

The Malta Union of Teachers told its members to refuse to police school lunches, following the publishing of a legal notice laying out rules on the consumption of certain foods in schools.

The union said it had registered the dispute after receiving repeated reports from its members about the changes, which it said have been imposed on educators.

It said the legal notice effectively made teachers personally responsible for decisions that weren’t in their control and at risk of having substantial fines imposed if they did not act in accordance with notice.

The union is ordering its members:

  • Not to communicate with health authorities and to ignore any received communication
  • Not to allow visits or inspections according to the legal notice
  • Not to participate in any initiative by the health authorities
  • Not to check any students’ food consumption
  • Not to feel obliged to implement regulations as regards the list of foods listed in the circulars DLAP268/2018 and DLAP364/2018

The union said that by making teachers responsible for monitoring children’s food, it had effectively changed the working conditions for teachers at all grades, work it said was not included in any collective agreement. This, it said, was unacceptable, and the reason it was forced to intervene.  

Furthermore, it noted that there had been no consultation with teachers about the changes affected by the legal notice, arguing that the changes go against the principles the education profession is based on.

It said that rather than grant teachers the resources to continue promoting the consumption of healthy food, the legal notice prohibits the consumption of certain types of food in the “most repressive manner possible”.

The union said that anyone that has worked with children, and “hasn’t stopped at theories”, knows that prohibition only leads to a greater desire for whatever has been banned.

In addition, it said the government was, rather than recognising teachers’ work, choosing to impose fines which range from €100 to €2,500 as well as criminal proceedings for not following the legal notice.

“This is the thanks the health authorities are sending educators and the education sector.”

The union insisted that teachers were fed up with having decisions made on their behalf from every sector, insisting that it would not be accepting “anyone who wakes up with a brilliant idea in the morning” to impose it on educators “without any consideration”.

Authorities deny teachers being asked to police school lunches

Reacting to the union’s announcement, the Health and Education authorities insisted that food provided by parents was not included in the legislative measure introduced by means of the legal notice.

The authorities said they had been “on the forefront” with initiatives supporting healthy eating and healthy school environment.

“One of the measures that has been ongoing over the past two years, was the type of food sold from tuck shops which had to be healthy,” read an Education ministry statement, adding that a legal notice was published in August which established healthy food criteria.

The legal notice, it said, was based on the “principle of procurement of healthy foods” being promoted across the EU, and which has been “highly commended by the World Health Organisation”.

The ministry stressed that while parents were always encouraged to provide their children with a healthy lunch, the legislative effort only related to school available at school.

It said that were held with principals, heads of schools and tuck shop providers to explain the legislation.

“At no stage teachers were expected to check on any food supplied,” the ministry said. “To be in line with the legislation, suggestions were provided on what type of foods can be procured.”

The ministry said the legislation further helped the implementation of a programme that promotes healthy eating to ensure that all children have access to such programmes, while urging all stakeholders to support initiatives promoting the health of children.

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