Court snubs Malta Union of Teachers, says UPE did not meddle in its affairs

The Union of Professional Educators was not acting illegally when issuing directives, court says, so directives will stand

UPE Executive Head Graham Sansone and MUT President Marco Bonnici
UPE Executive Head Graham Sansone and MUT President Marco Bonnici

A court has declared that the Malta Union of Teachers was not right in claiming that the other educators' union, the Union of Professional Educators, was acting illegally and that it had every right to issue its own directives. 

The court has rejected a warrant of prohibitory injunction taken out by the MUT to stop directives which were issued for the UPE's teacher members. 

The UPE told teachers not to attend or carry out work on Individual Education Programmes and not to work on adaptation or carry out document observations in schools after it found that teachers and LSEs were not being paid adequately for their overtime and were being assigned transport duty. 

The MUT had deemed these directives illegal and had filed for a warrant of prohibitory injunction to stop UPE from ordering these directives. 

"The directives are legitimate as confirmed by the court of law. This means that, as of tomorrow, 6 November, the directives we had issued will be back in force until our members will be given all that which is duly theirs," UPE said in a statement on Tuesday.

The court, presided over by Joseph Zammit McKeon, rescinded the temporary warrant and deemed the UPE's directives legitimate at law.

"It's not contested by UPE that the MUT represents the majority of employees in the education sector. Neither is it contested that the MUT has the right to negotiate work conditions on its own even for those employees who are not its members, but while the MUT has these rights, the UPE did not in any way usurp the MUT from carrying out its functions," the court said.

Marco Bonnici, MUT President, had said during his deposition that the way the UPE behaved had weakened MUT's strategy. 

"This is altogether subjective and was not proved objectively," the court declared, adding that the MUT did not have a right to meddle or usurp the work of the UPE, whose members had sought the union for their defence and the safeguard of their individual rights. 

MUT: warrant denied on procedural issue

MUT said that the reason the court denied the warrant of prohibitory injunction it had asked for against UPE was because the requisites for the issue of a warrant had not been reached.

"This doesn't mean that MUT is not right about what it said but means that the MUT will have to turn to other legal procedures to be granted the remedy it's asking for," the union said in a statement.

"As confirmed by the sentence, the MUT represents the majority of employees in the education sector and that the MUT, when negotiating terms with the employer, does so on its own even when it comes to employees who are not its members.

"The MUT insists that other unions can only intevene when it comes to individual cases, not collective ones," the MUT said, adding that it would be looking at other legal measures so that this right will continue to be protected.

"This isn't just an MUT issue but an issue for all trade unions. This is because we don't want a situation in the country where unions that do not have main recognition can hinder the main unions with industrial action."

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