Marica Micallef used to lecture English at MCAST. English lecturers, like other core subjects lecturers, formed part of the LSU[nit] and were asked to move around all over the institutes unlike other lecturers, who were stationed in one institute. Out of 16 lectures, she had 14 at the IET-IBCE (Institute of Building and Construction Engineering), whose director and assistant director, Marica told me, respected her a lot and she was also chosen to lecture 2 lectures at the IT Institute, considering her excellent performance in the previous year with the same institute as a part-timer.
Marica Micallef was praised whilst lecturing part-time between September 2018 and June 2019, to the extent that she was chosen as full-time Senior Lecturer 1 in September 2019. Then, within the period of five months (from 2nd September 2019 to 7th February 2020) during which she was subjected to 1 assessment, her post was instantly terminated without having been given any opportunity to defend herself or make submissions in relation to the lapsus (if any) attributed to her during the time of employment in front of Professor Calleja and MCAST’s board.
According to Marica Micallef, MCAST based most of its reasons for deciding to terminate her post on the basis that she had not attended the induction sessions. The reason why she was unable to attend such sessions was because on the same day and time, she had to attend the English coordinator’s meetings. This clash was due to lack of communication and coordination between institutes.
Marica Micallef continued stating that
“Unfairly, I was accused by the director at the time of the Learning Support Unit (LSU), Mr Kenny Muscat, that I have developed an attitude of “pick and choose” when it comes to attending meetings. This is highly unfair. Mr Kenny Muscat took it personally that I did not inform him regarding my unavailability to attend the induction meeting. While this is true, the reason why I had not informed him is due to the fact that the email received regarding the induction meeting had been sent by Ms. Irene Bugeja from email@example.com. The email stated ‘For logistics purpose, it would be very much appreciated if you kindly confirm your attendance WITH YOUR INTENTION TO ATTEND OR OTHERWISE. Hence, kindly confirm your reply by tomorrow 26th September on email: firstname.lastname@example.org’. This is important for two reasons. First of all the wording of the email itself clearly indicated that
a. attendance to the meeting was not compulsory or obligatory and lecturers had to reply to the email indicating whether they would attend or otherwise;
b. replies were not to be sent to Mr. Kenny Muscat but to Ms. Irene Bugeja from email@example.com. In addition, information about this meeting was emailed two days before it was to take place.
At least, another 8 colleagues did not attend the induction meeting and none of them have been dismissed as a result of not attending.
The fact that Mr. Kenny Muscat kept on mentioning this matter during the probation assessment session, indicates that Mr. Kenny Muscat was more interested in focusing his energies on criticising me than to assist me in my professional formation during my probationary period. This convinced me further that Mr. Kenny Muscat had a personal agenda against me since I had already apologised to him about this incident several times.”
For this reason, Marica Micallef insists that she was unfairly dismissed from MCAST. In her words,
“my dismissal was unfairly constructed in a matter of three days. On Tuesday 4th February. I attended a meeting at Mr. Saliba’s office, head of the Grievance and Portfolio Unit, in response to the grievance letter I had submitted. Following this meeting, the Grievance Report by Mr. Saliba was issued and emailed to me on Thursday 6th February 2020 and on Friday 7th February 2020, at 8 pm, I received the termination letter via email. On Saturday 9th February, I received a hardcopy of the termination letter by registered mail.
I then turned to the Ombudsman’s office and not to the Industrial Tribunal for a remedy since I was on one-year probation period (albeit with an experience of 17 years of teaching & visiting lecturer at the University). Mine was a case of an unjustified dismissal by a Government Tertiary Education Institution.
The ombudsman told MCAST that Mr Kenny Muscat had acted out of spite. Since I was on probationary period, the law was not by my side. However, two months after the Ombudsman report, I got to know that Mr Kenny Muscat and the LSU principal were demoted.
In conclusion, I wish to state that with the onset of the Covid-19 situation in Malta, my chances of finding employment at that point in time were very hard. This had affected my financial, emotional and mental wellbeing.”
Marica Micallef would like to express her solidarity with Peter Gatt and she endorses the fact that academic freedom is suppressed and threatened at MCAST. Clearly, MCAST does not have effective procedures, checks and balances to ensure that such scenarios do not repeat themselves.