Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi wants Air Malta and the pilots’ union to find ways to move forward, while stressing again that the government cannot give the guarantees over the early retirement scheme the pilots want due to legal reasons.
A dispute between the pilots and the airline had led to the union ordering industrial action, which saw pilots reporting for work half an hour late, causing disruption to the airline's schedule. However, Air Malta then filed for a court injunction, which was temporarily granted by the courts, thereby halting the industrial action. A final ruling is expected in the coming weeks.
Speaking to The Malta Independent, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said that there isn’t much dispute between Air Malta and the airline’s pilots’ union ALPA, adding that “they’ve agreed on nearly everything. ALPA asked us to guarantee the €700,000 payment per pilot related to the early retirement scheme if the airline ceases to exist. We explained that, for a number of reasons, the government cannot agree to this. The next step I think is for the airline and ALPA to sit down and clear out all issues. As far as I know there is agreement on the majority of issues.”
“If we agree and move forward, and they do not remain hard-headed about this guarantee, the future of the airline is good. After Summer, if we agree, we will announce an investment programme in our airline, to have a new fleet, to look away from our shores – we will go for medium-haul routes – which are also important things for our tourism strategy.”
He said that to his knowledge the two sides have yet to actually sit down and discuss. Mizzi said that the government cannot, legally, give the guarantee the pilots want. He said that the government told both Air Malta and ALPA to sit down and discuss.
“I hope common sense prevails and that they sit down with the company. All the issues we spoke about are more or less addressed - issues regarding rosters, issues related to training and allowances. So through the proposals made by the airline I think we addressed many of ALPA’s issues and ALPA more or less agreed on them. I hope that they sit down and together we move forward.”
It is unclear what the main cause of the action seems to be as Air Malta claims that the industrial action followed a decision taken by the government, Air Malta’s major shareholder, declining the request to guarantee the pilots’ early retirement scheme pay-out even if the airline is closed down. According to the agreement in place, pilots individually get some €700,000 each at age 55.
On the other hand, ALPA claims that Air Malta seems intent on distorting indisputable facts, as well as painting a false and unclear picture of the prevalent and current state of affairs. ALPA had said it has had to resort to industrial action in response to the management's numerous attempts to deploy crew illegally against the stipulated procedures, as well as in response to the company’s persistent failure to address concerns relating to the safety and well-being of its members. Sources said that pilots are concerned over the future of the airline and that this is why the pilots want the guarantee regarding the early retirement scheme.