Industrial action ordered at the Law Courts
Three separate cases of industrial action were initiated yesterday at the Law Courts by Voice of the Workers Unjoni Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM) over a number of outstanding issues effecting clerks, messengers and other court workers.
A collective agreement that has taken over two years to be concluded, discriminatory employment applications and health and safety issues are among the issues that the UĦM is seeking to address through the industrial action.
This first issue relates to a collective agreement regarding work conditions of clerks and registrars at the Law Courts. Discussions on the agreement have been going for over two years now, UĦM Employment Relations and Senior Manager Edwin Balzan said while giving comments to The Malta Independent.
The industrial action orders workers not to send or read emails, not to respond to telephone calls and not to upload court judgements. He said that the UĦM and the workers find the current situation “unfortunate,” adding however that it is unacceptable for an agreement not to be concluded in such a large amount of time.
“After two years of discussions, workers are still left without an agreement and are waiting for an understanding to be reached,” he said.
The second industrial action was issued on the basis of calls for applications for clerks and registrars, for which only those with diplomas are eligible to apply. In addition to this, whereas normally such applications are issued under scale 10 of the civil servant pay-scale, it has now been issued under scale 11.
Mr Balzan said that this is discriminatory as it excludes a number of highly experienced workers from applying, as many do not have a diploma, and also discriminates because it leads to a situation where two workers that have the exact same duties will be paid under a different scale.
“As far as I know, Members of Parliament are all paid the same, because they basically do the same work,” said Mr Balzan.
“There is no justice for the workers because some will be doing the same work as others but will be getting paid less,” he said.
The third and final industrial action was ordered over issues being faced by court marshals, messengers and clerks. With regard to clerks, Mr Balzan said there is a shortage of workers and that current staff are overloaded. He also said there are a number of health and safety issues, such as a large number of highly flammable boxes strewn across the court registry, blocking passageways and creating a hazardous environment.
Mr Balzan said that if there is a fire, it would be very difficult to get all court workers to safety. He also added that there is nobody present who has the training to evacuate workers safely.
With regard to court marshals and messengers, Mr Balzan explained that both men and women have the exact same uniform, often ill-fitting and uncomfortable. He said that many-a-time the jacket does not match the trousers and that workers are given uniforms that are of the wrong size.