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.