So I’m in court again, starting from next week. This time I’m the one who has taken people / entities to court and therefore I must pay the penalty for this cheek by using my allotted personal time off, which I normally use for my children’s parent days etc. Of course, if somebody takes me to court, then I’m entitled to a special leave allowance which is completely separate from my time off allocation. I see the message in this inequity from a mile away. What about you? Do you see the message?
So here is the chronology leading up to me taking this action or being this cheeky, depending on your viewpoint:
September 2010: I move to Malta from Scotland with my family on Friday, 24th September, 2010. On Monday 27th September, 2010, I begin my job as Teacher of Physics at a church school.
September 2010 to August 2013: The culture shock has no end. We are tenants and therefore invisible Arms customers living in our landord’s ‘empty’ second home and I’m an EU mobile teacher. Oh, and also we drove our 2002 Vauxhall Zafira over from the UK and are therefore subject to an extortionate annual circulation licence fee. And no, if we get rid of the car, we’d have to pay the registration tax that we were exempt from because we’d owned it for more than 2 years abroad. So there goes that option. Because Malta is a parallel universe in which the word ‘exemption’ has a completely different meaning to ‘exemption’ everywhere else.
August 2013 to July 2015: My fight to make Arms and my landlord see the error of their ways and to teach them how to behave themselves takes on many forms: I refuse to pay the outstanding so called arrears on the Arms bill on point of principle. I write to successive Arms CEOs, Minister of Energy Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. I petition the European Parliament and submit a complaint to the European Commission. I write to the Maltese NAO, the Maltese Office of the Ombudsman, the Maltese Inland Revenue. Nothing doing. Apparently getting Arms to bill tenants correctly is an impossible task, one which is certainly beyond the powers and capabilities of all the institutions mentioned above.
January 2015 to July 2015: The Arms / tenant scam and the setting up of a tenant support group takes up much of my time and energy. Of course, being a tenant in Malta is also not ideal. Plus I have 3 children and a full time job. Therefore, I ignore the niggling feeling that the state was also sanctioning the underpayment of my salary when it ignored my 15 years’ UK teaching experience. However, I begin to tentatively – in my oodles of spare time – question and explore whether my hunch was correct. I have facebook conversations with the then President of the MUT, Kevin Bonello, and what he discloses does not reassure me when it comes to his knowledge of EU freedom of movement of workers. Over the last ten years, this is a common theme. Every single person I expect to be more knowledgeable than me shocks me with their ignorance on their supposed areas of expertise.
July 2015: I watch the first discussion of my petition live in the European Parliamentary Committee of Petitions. My landlord’s case against me comes to an end. Is there some perfect resolution to the surreal situation of having precautionary garnishee orders issued against my salary and our bank accounts simply for disputing a clearly incorrect Arms bill? Is there heck.
July 2015 to January 2017: Now that I’m no longer in court re the Arms arrears, I step up the ante on my teacher salary issue. I hit brick wall after brick wall as the various entities resist my fight for justice. Legalistic nonsense after legalistic nonsense rules the day, the weeks, the months, the years. First the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement didn’t apply to my case because I had moved from the UK church sector to the Maltese Church sector. Then it was because I had moved from the UK state sector to the Maltese church sector. Kevin Bonello - the president of the Malta Union of Teachers - gives the distinct impression that he’s not very keen on me having my prior UK teaching experience recognised when it came to salary. He tells me that I have no case. In August 2016, the European Commission contradicts him and tells me that I do. In January 2017 I am placed on the correct point of the Teacher Salary Scale taking into account my 15 years’ UK teaching experience. Arrears from September 2013 to December 2016 are also paid.
January 2017 to June 2018: I’m an awkward customer really. So I question why I am not entitled to arrears from September 2010 to September 2013. Malta joined the EU in 2004 so EU freedom of movement of workers was applicable from then. Again legalistic nonsense after legalistic nonsense was the order of the day. Surely I understood that this kind of treatment was also meted out to mobile teachers within Malta? So, there you go. I wasn’t being discriminated against; I was being treated in exactly the same way as mobile teachers within Malta, it was proclaimed. So I raid the Curia of the European Court of Justice case law. And there I come across a case, similar to mine, in which the European Court of Justice gave a preliminary ruling which basically stated that EU law on freedom of movement for workers within the EU “must be interpreted as precluding national legislation…” You see the issue is that all schools in Malta will have a majority of teachers who chose to stay in the same school all their careers, and who therefore were not disadvantaged in the same way as pre 2013 mobile teachers. So I was disadvantaged when compared to a non mobile teacher. I had my 15 years’ UK teaching experience ignored whilst non mobile teachers working in the same school I worked in did not. The conclusion to draw from this is that EU law is more respectful of workers than Maltese law is. If Malta chooses to penalise Malta mobile teachers, that was its own affair – the EU could not interfere in this. However, as this preliminary ruling showed, Malta could not penalise EU mobile teachers in this way. MEDE, my union could quote the 2013 MUT / MEDE agreement till the cows came home. This cannot apply to my case.
June 2018: I submit a complaint to the NCPE, the agency designated by the EU to deal with EU freedom of movement.
March 2019: The NCPE rules in my favour and recommends that I am paid the arrears from September 2010 to September 2013.
March 2019 to November, 2019: MEDE ignores the NCPE recommendations.
November 2019: I file a court case against all concerned.
January 2020: It is now 4 and a half years since I started the fight for equal pay for equal work. When I started my teaching job in Malta, my salary was less than €17000 (gross). This was the salary of a newly qualified teacher straight out of university. It takes a teacher in Malta 20 years to reach the salary ceiling. If I hadn't started this battle, I would still have ten years to go to reach the salary ceiling. I'd have two years to go before retirement. In Malta you have to fight for your fundamental rights. No one - not even or especially not even the state - will tell you your rights. When you insist on your rights, you are resisted every step of the way. You are resisted tooth and nail. You cannot sue for moral damages. It is a shocking state of affairs that I am still having to fight these battles ten years later.