Students protest against government-lecturers’ impasse
University students will be demonstrating on campus today in protest against the impasse between their lecturers and the government that is holding back a new collective agreement, which expired five years ago.
The University of Malta Academic Staff Association and the Malta Union of Teachers issued directives over the deadlock on the financial package of the new collective agreement, which include holding back any end-of-semester exams.
On Monday, Education Minister Dolores Cristina appealed to UMASA to lift its directives as a precondition to return to resume the discussions, but she also said the union had to change its statute so that its members were no longer required to approve a new deal.
UMASA insisted it will not change its statute and justified its directives given that government had been lingering on the expired agreement for too long.
Students have also reacted to the directives, with the university students’ council (KSU) and other student organisations appealing to government and the lecturers’ union to stop using them as political football in the ongoing impasse.
Meanwhile the National Youth Council yesterday joined the student organisations in appealing to students to join today’s rally, while calling on government and UMASA to find a solution in this critical moment.
“The situation is unacceptable and it is undesirable to have students doing all their exams in June,” the council said.
The council also condemned the fact that negotiations had been stalled since the first week of December.
“This is definitely not in anyone’s interest, most especially when one considers that these directives are affecting so many people. The actions taken by UMASA were disproportionate, but the government’s procrastination was equally far from ideal.”
On the other hand, another organisation, Żminijietna, expressed its solidarity with lecturers, blaming the impasse on the government.
“Government’s attitude and lack of will to improve academics’ working conditions in a fair way is resulting in a lot of pressure on the lecturers which ultimately will also affect students,” said Żminijietna PRO David Pisani.
“At the same time we believe that increased accountability from all sides should be part and parcel of the new collective agreement,” Pisani added. “Besides, all academics at all grades, including not only lecturers but also researchers, should benefit from improved working condition”.