Two examiners complained that the University of Malta arbitrarily reduced considerably their fees as MATSEC markers.
Two MATSEC examiners/markers lodged a complaint against the University of Malta claiming that, without consultation or prior notice, the MATSEC Support Unit (MSU) did not remunerate their services as markers for the examination scripts in 2012 at the same rates they were paid in the previous four years.
The complainants have acted jointly as markers for one of the MATSEC Matric examinations subjects since 2008. In the years 2008-2011 the University remunerated their services at an average rate of €5.87 per script, but in 2012 the remuneration was reduced to €3.78 per script without prior consultation or notification. Since in 2012 they marked 704 scripts, they claimed between them a shortfall payment of € 1,471.32.
In 2012, the University Council established the markers’ remuneration at the rate of €4.40 per script, information that the MSU claims to have communicated to all markers. However, throughout the investigation, the complainants (as well as the subject Examination Chief Examiner) insisted that the MSU Principal Subject Area Officer gave them this information only in January 2013 when they complained about the 2012 remuneration.
In spite of the set €4.40 per script, the MSU allowed Subject Examination Chairpersons to apportion remuneration among the examination team members according to the task performed by each individual. This procedure was permitted as long as the total sum paid out did not exceed that allocated for each subject, and provided that the examiners and markers concerned agreed to the proposed distribution.
The Matric examination subject concerned consists of four papers, where Papers 1 and 2 are of 180 minutes duration and carry 100 marks each, whereas Papers 3 and 4 are of 90 minutes duration and carry 50 marks each. Dr X, who was the subject Examination Chairman for the years 2008-2011, factored in the reality that it was more arduous and time-consuming to mark Papers 1 than it was to mark Papers 2, 3 and 4. Consequently, he recommended the remuneration for Paper 1 at a rate of €5.87 instead of €4.40, while markers for Papers 2, 3 and 4 were remunerated at a lower rate. The MSU approved and paid the recommended rates once the total sum did not exceed that allocated to the subject examination. On this basis complainants received between them the following payments for marking Paper 1:
2008: 556 scripts @ €5.87 = €3,261.86
2009: 724 scripts @ €5.87 = €4,247.46
2010: 754 scripts @ €5.87 = €4,423.47
2011: 667 scripts @ €5.87 = €3,913.06
2012: 704 scripts @ €3.78 = €2,651.12
Mr Y replaced Dr X as the subject Matric Examination Chairperson in 2012. The new Chairman gave MSU the names of the markers without distinguishing between those who marked Papers 1 and those who marked Papers 2, 3 & 4, and without factoring their respective input and differentiated rates of payment. He assumed that his task was to concentrate on the academic aspects of the examination, while MSU officials would cater for the administrative details including the rate of payments based on previous years. During our meeting he assured me that he only became aware of the €4.40 and €5.87 per script rates when this case arose, and therefore he could not have discussed the rate of payment with the complainants and other examination markers.
The MSU accepted the data provided by Mr Y as it had Dr X’s. However, without instructions to do otherwise, the MSU Principal Subject Area Officer divided the sum allocated to marking indiscriminately among the individuals concerned. This worked out at the rate of € 3.78 per script.
The running of the national MATSEC Examinations, involving almost a hundred subjects and tens of thousands of scripts, is a most complex exercise. It was therefore appropriate for the University Council to set a standard remuneration-marking rate. It was also a sensible policy of the MSU to allocate a global sum based on Council’s established rate to cover the cost of each subject examination, but leave it at the discretion of Subject Examination Chairman, following consultations with the examiners involved, to pay the questions-setters and the script-markers concerned according to their respective inputs. It may not have been a perfect system but it was fair, practical and agreed to by all concerned. Problems arose when a failure in communications occurred as happened in this case with the change of the Subject Examination Board Chairman. In 2012, the officials involved followed what they considered the right procedures, which resulted in considerably reduced payments to the complainants. The latter did not have the opportunity to accept or reject the reduced rates because they were never consulted about them.
Conclusion and recommendations
In the four consecutive years 2008-2011, the complainants were remunerated for marking Paper 1 of a MATSEC paper at the rate of €5.87 per script even if the rate set by the University Council was €4.40. The MSU allowed the difference in payment when the Subject Examination Chairman Dr X, who took into account the input by the different markers, recommended it. The MSU accepted the Chairman’s logic, complied with his recommendations and paid the complainants at the higher rate.
In 2012, Chairman Mr Y did not distinguish between the inputs of the various script-markers as his predecessor had done. As a result, the complainants were remunerated at the newly computed rate of €3.78 per script for performing exactly the same duties they had carried out in the previous four years at the rate of €5.87 per script. With 704 scripts involved, they estimated an under-payment of €1,471.32 between them. They were neither consulted nor notified by the new Chairman or any other MSU official that they were to be remunerated at a lower rate than in the previous four years.
Therefore, considering all the factors involved, it was logical for the two complainants to expect that the rate of remuneration for 2012 would continue to be at the previous rate of €5.87 per script. In view of these facts, I sustain the complainants’ claim that their remuneration for the marking of examination scripts in 2012 was not consistent with that of the previous four years. In the light of the above I recommend to the University to pay the outstanding sum of €1,471.32 due to them jointly.
The University authorities accepted the University Ombudsman’s recommendations and remunerated the complainants the full sum due to them.