Air Malta’s pilots have been guaranteed alternative work in Malta with the same take-home pay should they be made redundant, according to a 2018 letter of commitment signed by then-Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.
The letter was published in a list of detailed email exchanges which were unveiled in a judicial protest from the Association of Airline Pilots (ALPA) against Air Malta and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri over the decision to make 108 of their 134 pilots redundant after they refused to take a €1,200 monthly salary amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dispute has gone public with Schembri claiming that ALPA simply was trying to “hijack” Air Malta and backed the difficult decisions being made.
The pilots were first informed of the decision on 7th April in a letter also addressed to the Director-General for Industrial and Employment Relations Diane Vella Muscat.
ALPA insists that they had long made it clear that they were willing to conduct meaningful discussions, and were restricted to just a 30-minute meeting on 2nd April before the decisions as made.
A 30 day consolation period then kicked off, with Air Malta pledging to examine how the proposed number of redundancies could be avoided or reduced; and how it could minimise the impact on those affected by the cut.
However, the airline then launched a request to reduce this time window to just fifteen days from 7th May to 21st April (tomorrow).
ALPA says it has tried to kick off discussions. However, the airline’s CEO Clifford Chetcuti and other key board members, who they say are the real decision-makers, refuse to meet with them.
There has only been one meeting since the announcement of the mass redundancies, and requests to meet with the CEO and others continue to be denied.
The government, ALPA explained, is also failing to protect their jobs, despite promises outlined in previous collective agreements, namely the one signed by Mizzi.
The judicial protest hopes to stop the planned redundancy and is warning of further legal action.
The mass redundancies were not Air Malta’s first plan. In a published letter to Director-General Diane Vella Muscat on 24th March 2020, Air Malta said it had reached an agreement with all its unions on its proposals and was now looking to implement them.
The company’s measures would see all of its staff make use of force leave, before being put on reduced hours and salaries, before taking forced unpaid leave. Benefits would be revoked.
However, ALPA had never agreed to such proposals, claiming that the plans were outlined in a “very short notice on 24th March 2020”.
“The measures envisaged by the company were presented as a “done deal” and not as proposals aimed at an exchange of views,” their lawyer said.
With the national airline expected to continue to experience adverse effects from the pandemic, it remains to be seen whether the pilots and Air Malta can reach an agreement.