revealing the injustice
I named this website 'The Spirit of the Law' because I am forever taken aback by how the Maltese powers that be use the letter of the law to defile its spirit. I am forever horrified by how - in Malta - the law is used - as a matter of course - to pervert the course of justice. This is not to say that this is exclusively a Maltese characteristic – it’s just that to the trained eye it is especially pervasive and brazen in Malta.
Today, this blog will refer to the anomalous situation many teachers working in all Maltese schools in all sectors find themselves in.
At the heart of this situation is the fact that teachers of greater teaching experience earn less than teachers of lesser teaching experience. How teachers find themselves in this situation - the whys and wherefores - is surely unimportant. It is despicable that employers quote agreements of questionable legality to justify this discrimination.
I was not surprised to recently discover that one of my teachers who taught me in the early 80s earns less than I do now, even though her teaching career is longer than mine. She is two or so years away from retirement, so will never reach the top of the Teacher Salary Scale, if the current injustice is allowed to prevail.
For teachers in this situation, the loss in earnings over decades is substantial.
In our case, we – a family of 5 – were meant to live on 300 euro per month after rent and the Arms bill, on the incorrectly applied summer residence tariff. If I had been paid correctly, our disposable income after rent and utilities would have been about 900 euro. Can you imagine what this does to your quality of life? To the dreams and aspirations that you have for your children? The 2016 Caritas study on poverty posited that a family of 2 adults and 2 children needs a minimum of 953 euro per month to be able to live a minimum existence. This assumed that this family lived in social accommodation, with housing costs of 17 euro per month (200 euro per year). So, officially speaking, we were living in poverty. We needed three times our disposable income to be officially out of poverty. Three times - 300%.
How can a worker - a tertiary educated teacher – be classed as living in poverty? If I had been paid correctly, then we would still be classed as poor but not by a margin of 300%. This is a gross breach of the fundamental human right to family life, to be treated with dignity as a human being, to be paid fairly for your labour...
How can it be possible that the state propagates these breaches of fundamental human rights? How can it be possible that the state is responsible for discriminating against you and getting the benefit of your teaching experience on the cheap?
Like me, there will be many other teachers in similar situations. How many teachers in this situation choose to limit their families to one or two children, when they would like more? How many pinch and squeeze their way, with great difficulty, to the end of the month? How many endure sleepless nights, worrying about how they were going to pay that unexpected bill? How many endure mental health issues?
Instead of the various entities lancing the boil of this injustice once and for all, we have instead an admission that this is unjust, but only for teachers moving EU member state post 2013 or state school teacher moving state school post 2013 or teachers moving licensed school from whichever sector post 2015.
The problem with resolving this injustice in such a piecemeal fashion is that you will compound the injustice for many. Teachers moving sector pre 2015, teachers moving from state school to state school pre 2013 or EU member state school to Maltese state school pre 2013 will still be discriminated against. They will continue to feel the humiliation of being regarded as second class teachers, lower tier teachers, still charged with the same duties of teachers less experienced than they, but earning less.
Powers that be – bite the bullet. Do the right thing. Stop the discrimination and stop breaching the fundamental human rights of many teachers.
By Jean-Marc Nattier - Sotheby's, lot.14, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51532114
In the August of 2015 I submitted this complaint to the European Commission re the underpayment of my salary:
There followed a year of intensive correspondence between myself, the European Commission, Kevin Bonello, President of the MUT and various officials of MEDE, including Minister Evarist Bartolo and his lawyers.
Many spanners were thrown in the works. This is because, in Malta, the powers that be conduct a war of attrition. They try to wear you out so that you give up and the status quo is protected.
The spanners were imaginative in their scope, I’ll give them that. They were as far removed from the original spirit of EU law as is possible to be.
First I was told by no other than the person heading my union that the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement was not applicable to me because I was moving to Malta from the UK Church sector. So I produced documentary evidence to show that my UK employers were the local councils that these schools were situated in. Church schools in the UK are mostly state owned, unlike in Malta.
I was then told by Mr Bonello that the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement did not apply to me because I had moved from the UK state sector to the Maltese Church sector. In Malta, we have the anomalous situation in which the individual Church school is the employer but it is the state which approves the employment of Church school teachers, decrees the point on the Salary Scale the teacher is to be placed and pays the teacher salaries.
I argued this fine point over several months. Every legalistic and nonsensical riposte was dispiriting. Clearly the Maltese contingent was not buying it. Clearly the Maltese contingent does not draw a distinction between legalese and justice. Clearly the Maltese contingent does not see that underpaying a teacher and getting the benefit of their 15 years’ teaching experience on the cheap is immoral and unjust. Clearly the Maltese contingent sees nothing wrong in the discrimination of teachers of greater teaching experience earning less than teachers of lesser teaching experience.
So I decided to send my approval letter on a MEDE letterhead to the European Commission. Surely the people at the Commission would not behave as the Maltese contingent? Surely the European Commission would see that it is MEDE that has power over what salary point a Church school teacher in a Maltese church school is to be placed?
My hunch was proved correct. Within a few weeks of the Commission receiving the approval letter -showing that it was MEDE that approved my appointment as Teacher of Physics, that decreed I was to be placed on Scale 9 Increment 1 and that paid my salary - I received a letter from the Commission informing me that the situation was resolved. All the legalistic mumbo jumbo was no more. Thank goodness for that.
However, there is still some legalistic mumbo jumbo to endure. Basically, the Maltese contingent argued that the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement stipulated that I was to be paid arrears from the 23rd September, 2013. I was told that I would not be receiving arrears for the years 2010 to 2013, worth circa €20 000.
Because the Maltese contingent thinks that the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement of dubious legality supersedes EU law. Because the Maltese contingent thinks that they can pay the EU teacher - whose action was the reason for the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement - arrears before 2013. But not me.
So I write to the European Commission and explain the situation. In December of last year, I also instruct my lawyer to interrupt the prescription on my case. I am quietly confident that the European Commission will come to my help again. However, if not, I will take legal action against all parties concerned. Even if it has to go before the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights.
In the meantime, I have started a Teacher Mobility support group. Just like MEDE tries to get the benefit of experienced teachers from the EU on the cheap, it does the same to teachers moving sector within Malta. In any one school all over Malta, you have teachers of lesser teaching experience earning more than teachers of greater teaching experience.
The attempts of the MUT to resolve this situation have been pitiful. The 2013 Mobility Agreement, followed by the 2015 Bridging Agreement have created anomaly upon anomaly. This discrimination against teachers moving sector is clearly in breach of the 2002 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
This is shameful. In a teacher recruitment crisis, teachers of experience are treated without regard to their dignity. They are discriminated against, taken for granted. It is a wonder that these stay on in Maltese schools, giving of their best. It is a wonder that they didn’t leave the teaching profession years ago.
As you can see in the table below, our cost of electricity works out at €0.63 per day more expensive, €0.03 per unit more expensive and €230.88 per year more expensive than it should be, if Arms / Enemalta were not to be in breach of the Electricity Supply Regulations and if we were to be billed according to the full quota of cheaper units that we are due.
Now, this analysis is the analysis of the cost for our household for this last year. Of course, it will differ from household to household and from year to year. The point is that it will be an exceptionally massive fluke if the cost with annual quotas were to match exactly the cost with pro rata quotas.
The crux of the problem is that the billing period - in number of days - constitutes part of the algorithm for calculating the cost. So - simply put - to work out the cost of the bill, the algorithm will calculate the pro rata quota of allowances, according to this number of days. If the billing period is a year, then there would be no problem at all. But because the billing period is chopped up into 6 two monthly bills, then the pro rata quotas will not be at all sensitive to the peaks and troughs of consumption over the year.
In fact, if you look at the diagram below, this, in itself, constitutes another problem. The cost of our electricity over the last year, ranges from €1.60 per day to €8.00 per day and from €0.12 per unit of electricity to €0.20 per unit of electricity.
This is problematic - who wants to have to pay bills of €401.68 for November to January and €456.08 for January to March? These bills, representing our electricity cost of 4 months, amount to 60% of the the total annual cost of electricity for our household. We were billed for the remaining 40% of the total cost over 8 months. This is simply not tenable and will create huge problems for people with cash flow issues.
You know what they say - lies, damned lies and statistics... Much was made in the 2013 PL electoral campaign, of the decrease in the cost of electricity, if PL were to be elected. Five years on, and I hope that this incorrect implementation of the Arms billing system will be fixed. I also hope all aspects of this catastrophic billing system will also be fixed - the Arms / tenant scam, the prepaid meters issue, the PV issue... It is so wrong that Arms continues to take advantage of its monopoly position.
I also wonder what Malta puts forward as its average cost per unit of electricity for households, when asked for statistics. Our average cost per unit was 16 c per unit this year. This, when we - a household of 5 - are hardly at home, have no ac and no drier. The diagram below shows the cost of our electricity if we had been allowed our full quota of cheaper units. The cost per unit, in this case, would have been 13 c per unit. Still nothing to write home about. For our level of electricity consumption, I would say that Malta must have one of the higher electricity prices. That money is not being invested in renewable energy, from what I can see. I wonder, is it financing some Azeri and Maltese politicians instead?
After years of different people shouting from every rooftop, Arms is feeling the pressure. It's not the Arms / tenant scam, however, that is getting everybody hot under the collar. Instead it's yet another example of how far away Maltese administrative policy is from being sensible, transparent and fair.
As more and more Smart meters are being read remotely, many households are being billed every 2 months. Many people would welcome receiving bills more frequently so as not to be hit with a massive bill every 6 months.
The Arms billing system is a stepped billing system, with the cost of your consumption increasing the more electricity you consume. This is a good idea - we need every possible incentive to reduce our consumption of electricity. Unfortunately, however, the people over at Arms have not stopped to consider that there is a clear problem with having bills issued every two months.
From the Electricity Supply Regulations, these are the annual allowances at each band on the Residential Tariff:
i) For every kWh of the first 2,000 kWh ..................... €0.1047;
ii) For every kWh of the next 4,000 kWh ................... €0.1298;
iii) For every kWh of the next 4,000 kWh ................... €0.1607;
iv) For every kWh of the next 10,000 kWh ................. €0.3420;
v) For every kWh of the remaining consumption ....... €0.6076.
All well and good. Unfortunately, these quotas are being calculated pro rata every two month billing period. This means that periods of lower consumption will not compensate for periods of higher consumption.
The spreadsheet below totals the consumption of units at the different bands for our household over the last year. I used the second page of six Arms bills to calculate the total number of units at each band. Surprise, surprise - of course, our annual consumption of 8868 units of electricity did not utilize all the quotas at the cheaper rates.
We lost out on 341.22 units of electricity at €0.1298 per unit. We also lost out on 2005.48 units of electricity at €0.1607 per unit. We were also charged at €0.3420 per unit on 1215.01 units of electricity, when we should never have breached the €0.1607 per unit band. Our total consumption was 8868 units of electricity for the year. So how on earth were we charged at the €0.3420 per unit band, if we hadn't breached 10 000 units in the year?
This categorically shows - black on white - that an increased frequency of billing will cost the consumer more than it should. The Electricity Supply Regulations are very clear that these quotas are annual quotas.
The ONLY reason for the disclaimer on the Arms online calculator is that the frequency of the billing has an effect on the cost of the bill. A calculator can never be wrong - the algorithms calculating the cost can never be wrong. This, therefore, is an unjust manipulation of the Arms billing system to make as much money as possible from the consumer, in contravention of the Electricity Supply Regulations. Consumers are being denied their right, under law, to enjoy the full annual quotas at the cheaper rates.