The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers would like to clarify the distinction in roles between FELTOM and the UPE. While both are working within the same sector and dealing with educators, their aims and roles differ significantly.
FELTOM is a “non-profit organisation, dedicated to promoting professionalism within the English language learning industry by setting and maintaining standards in every aspect of a language stay.” It is responsible for the development of “codes of conduct and national standards of service for its members, ensuring that such standards are monitored whilst maintaining a professional identity for its members.” As stated by Mr James Perry, the CEO of FELTOM, “FELTOM’s main objective is to set, improve and ensure the maintenance of standards in all aspects of English language stays in Malta, to develop cooperation amongst licensed English Language Schools.”
On the other hand, the UPE is a licensed trade union. A trade union is an organisation of workers. It is an independent organisation. It is run democratically by the workers in the interest of the workers. The work carried out by the UPE involves protecting and furthering the interests of educators while defending their rights as workers from abuse of power. The union has a role which is recognised by the state and has legal backing to represent educators should a grievance or conflict between employers and educators arise. It can mobilise educators to take action in support of demands and goals and can bring to the attention of the management, the government, the political parties and the public in general the demands of these same educators. A trade union can manage disputes by using internal disputes and procedures, mediation, arbitration, application of procedures in the labour law, industrial action or a combination of any of the above mentioned strategies.
“All employees have the option to be represented at work by a workers’ union. The responsibilities, privileges and obligation of the unions are regulated in the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (Cap 452). According to this act, all nationals including TCNs have equal access to membership and participation in trade union associations and work-related negotiation bodies. Employees who face problems at their place can approach the union relevant to their industry to request help.”
It should be clear at this point that the aims and interests of the two organisations are significantly different and that their effective involvement in issues that may arise differs by virtue of their role. This does not imply that the two organisations are in conflict with each other at all times, on the contrary, they are complimentary to each other to ensure that the whole sector is regulated and that workers at all levels are represented and defended.