In terms of Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman Mr Anthony C. Mifsud and the Commissioner for Education, Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent A. De Gaetano, have sent to the House of Representatives the Final Opinion on a complaint lodged by an LSE2 who raised an issue of unfair treatment.
Summary of the Case
The complainant claimed that whereas LSEs working on a one-to-one basis and who were required to remain in class during the break (because of the special circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic) were compensated (that is, paid extra) for those 15 minutes they would otherwise have been entitled to take away from the students, LSEs like herself (at least in primary schools) who have multiple shared cases and were not allowed out of the class for safety reasons, were not compensated for the additional fifteen minutes which she (and others in her position) had to work. She considered this an injustice.
From investigations carried out by the Commissioner for Education it transpired that earlier in this academic year an agreement was reached between the MUT and the Ministry for Education to the effect that LSEs assigned to one-to-one students are to be paid for a fifteen minute break per day since the current pandemic measures in schools make it impossible to assign the break to another educator. The agreement was crafted in such a way that the provision relative to the 15 minutes entitlement was directed to LSEs assigned to one-to-one students, since LSEs assigned to shared students could be expected to take the daily break while their students are supervised by other peripatetic educators. However, in a number of cases this expectation had not materialised, and the complainant’s situation is a case in point. It was not the case that the complainant has elected not to take the 15 minutes break – in which case she would not be entitled to the 15 minutes break compensation – but that she is prevented from so doing because COVID protocols, enforced in her school, did not allow her to leave the class from the moment she started in the morning until the end of school in the early afternoon. In other words, a situation had unwittingly developed where two sets of LSEs doing the same work were being treated differently in terms of pay. The Commissioner concluded that this situation was clearly unjust and recommended that that the complainant – and all other LSEs in a relevantly similar situation to the complainant’s, that is, who were prevented from taking the 15 minutes break, because of the current COVID health protocol – be compensated in accordance with the MUT agreement
The Ministry indicated, for reasons that the Commissioner considers to be unfounded, that it does not intend to implement the recommendation made in his Final Opinion.
The Ombudsman and the Commissioner brought the case to the Prime Minister’s attention last May and since no action has been taken, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner sent the report to the House of Representatives for its attention.