The first registered Trade Union
Since its foundation in 1919 the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) has grown both in its stature as an organization at the national level and in its membership strength. The Union started with just over 600 members and today the MUT is over 7000 strong, representing all grades of teachers in the public and private sectors from Kindergarten to University. Over the years the MUT developed its dual role of a strong and effective trade union and an experienced professional educational organization.
The MUT owes its origin to the developments following the 7th June 1919 riots which were sparked by the misery in which the Maltese workers were living at the time. In an effort to calm the situation a Commission was set up specifically to review the salaries of government employees. In its report, which was published on November 5 1919, the Commission recommended salary increases for all categories of workers except teachers. Suffice it to say that during the first two decades of the 20th century, the standards of education and the condition of work of Maltese teachers were in a pathetic state.
Against the backdrop of this reality a young 29 year-old teacher, Antonio Galea from Valletta, took the initiative and called all teachers in Malta to unite and fight for their rights. Over 500 teachers from various towns and villages around Malta responded to Antonio Galea’s call and converged on the Floriana Primary School for a special foundation meeting held on November 22, 1919. The meeting was addressed by two of Antonio Galea’s staunchest supporters, Joseph Giordano and Rogantino Cachia who were elected as the MUT’s first President and first Secretary respectively. Antonio Galea became the Union’s Organizer. Subsequent to this meeting the MUT became the first registered trade union in Malta.
Conscious of its moral obligations the MUT has, since its origin, realized the need to strike a balance between its member’s rights and their responsibilities. This explains why the MUT took up a dual role, namely that of a trade union and a professional organization.
Trade Unionistic Role
The MUT’s role as a trade-union and its successes in this field need hardly be stressed. Teachers know that they can rely on their union when it comes to negotiations on salaries and conditions of work. In fact, the MUT managed to obtain salary increases for teachers in 1947, 1953, 1955, 1959 and 1962. In the late 60’s the MUT scored another success in its representations with the Salaries Anomalies Commission. In 1974 the MUT negotiated another Reorganization Agreement but the Union’s greatest achievement was registered in 1988 through the enactment of the Education Act by which teaching was given official recognition as a profession. This was followed by an agreement with the government which translated this recognition into tangible terms. More recently teachers consolidated their position through a Public Service Reform agreement signed in August 1994. This was followed by an Addendum to the Classification and Grading Agreement of the Education Class signed in February 2001.
The MUT’s role as a professional organization, particularly its interest in the professional development of teachers, was evident from the early years of the Union’s life. In fact, this was clearly one of the first items on the MUT’s agenda and as far back as the early 20’s the MUT highlighted the inadequacies of the training school for teachers of the time and submitted proposals regarding the need of a Chair of Pedagogy at the University of Malta. However, it was only after the war that two well organized training colleges were set up. Eventually these two colleges merged into one Institute and were transferred to the University of Malta under the Faculty of Education in the early 80’s.
In an attempt to highlight, discuss and propose solutions to the problems facing the various sectors of our educational system the MUT has, over the years, organized various seminars, fora and conferences on educational issues. The MUT also regularly publishes its views on particular aspects of topical interest in education.
The full history of the MUT can be found in the book “Inside the Malta Union of Teachers 1919-2009: Ninety years of active trade unionism and professional development” (Malta, 2009) by George Cassar ISBN: 978-99909-64-24-0. For a copy please contact the Union.