Updated | Union refuses collective agreement to accomodate one employee, Home Affairs Ministry says

Following the stepping up of industrial action encouraged by the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) representing the probation and parole officers, the Ministry for Home Affairs insists that 'the stubborness of the Union' is on the basis of accomodating one single employee through unethical means

The Ministry said it was very disappointed at how obstinate UHM were being over a single employee.

At the start of December, UHM called for industrial action over the working conditions and salaries of probation officers.

Just yesterday, UHM assistant director Edwin Balzan claimed that the government had yet to bring to the table 'acceptable proposals' despite the industrial action being ordered weeks ago.

Balzan said that the union and the government had been in talks over a new collective agreement for over a year.

Probation officers are tasked with the supervision of offenders who are not handed an effective prison sentence and are sanctioned, instead, via a probation. This can last for up to three years.

The Ministry for Home Affairs, however, claims that the collective agreement was not signed by UHM because the union insists on accomodating one person—improving his grade and salary—who does not even form part of the probation and parole class.

"The Ministry is very disappointed at the stubborness of the Union representing the Probation and Parole Class especially when one considers the fact that the new sectoral agreement has been agreed to by both parties and which will greatly benefit the workers in this Class by way of an improved financial package and better conditions," a spokesperson for the ministry said.

The home affairs ministry claimed that despite this, the ministry, assisted by the Industrial Relations Unit within the OPM, offered an alternative route to improve the grade and salary of this employee in line with current promotion parameters.

This, the ministry said, was not what would have happened had the ministry acceded to UHM's unethical request.

"The Ministry discusses such issues directly with the Union negotiating such agreements and not with the workers. After all, unions always bring along employee representatives during discussions.  Regrettably, the Ministry's various attempts for an informal meeting with Union top officials were rejected for one reason or another."

A spokesperson for the ministry said that current and accepted practices dictate that formal discussions can only take place if any industrial action is first suspended.

UHM Reacts

A spokesperson for UHM rebutted the accusation that sectoral agreement was not signed to accommodate a single person.

“There are three pending issues that the management agreed upon but when the time of signing came, the management backed out from addressing these issues,” the UHM said.

The union said there are issues with payments owed, which were due to be paid earlier. It noted that there are also issues “regarding the adjustment of salaries by the management who failed to keep its word."

According to the UHM, there are also issues concerning the assimilation of conditions of employees forming part of the probation section.

The UHM said that it is not the case that the Industrial Relations Unit within the OPM has been offered as an alternative route to improve the grade and salary of these employees.

“An acceptable alternative route was never made known to the officials of the union. The only solution suggested by the OPM was of a much lower level which would disturb the organisation structure of the Probation and Parole Class. The Ministry for Home Affairs also failed to mention that the same ministry suggested the introduction of a person foreign to the Probation Sectoral Agreement who does not form part of the Probation and Parole class and does not even work in the section.”

UHM said that discussions have not been treated seriously by the ministry. “If the discussions were handled well the union would have signed by now.”

The UHM said it would persist with industrial action until justice is served.