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Stalemate over teachers’ maternity leave

The government and the Malta Union of Teachers remain locked in discussions over “compen­sation” for teachers who give birth during their summer holidays.

No compensation at all is highly unacceptable

Recent proposals by the authorities to solve the impasse, originally flagged by the European Commission more than two years ago, have been deemed “unacceptable” by the union.

The issue, first brought to the attention of the EU Executive in 2010 by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil, involves the right of teachers to receive their full maternity leave besides their regular summer holidays when they give birth during the annual scholastic recess in the summer.

The Education Department applies a pre-EU-accession policy where teachers whose maternity leave falls during the “normal” summer holidays do not recoup any of their “lost” vacation leave.

This is illegal, according to EU jurisprudence that maternity and vacation leave should be treated separately and that teachers who use their maternity leave during the summer recess should not lose their normal entitlement.

Answering a series of parliamentary questions, European Justice Commissioner Vivian Reding told Dr Busuttil that the Commission was closely following the issue and some form of progress had already been made.

“The Commission understands from the Maltese authorities that there have been discussions with the MUT on the issue. “The Maltese government has made proposals to amend the public service management code with a view to ensuring that teachers whose maternity leave coincides with statutory holiday periods are to be fully compensated.”

However, it seems the issue is still far from being resolved. MUT president Kevin Bonello feels the proposals presented by the government are unacceptable.

“The government is just trying to amend the law so that technically Malta will be in line with EU rules without giving compensation to teachers. We have made it clear this will not work and we will not be accomplices in what the authorities are trying to do.”

While he conceded that the issue might complicate the life of the scholastic system from the administrative point of view, Mr Bonello said the MUT was being very reasonable in the negotiations with the government. “As this has been established as a right according to EU law, teachers are entitled to some form of compensation.”

“We may not agree yet on the level of compensation, but this has to be part of the equation to solve the issue. No compensation at all is highly unacceptable,” he said.

The government did not wish to comment. “We are still trying to reach a solution,” a spokesman said curtly.

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