[WATCH] Air Malta closes agreement with General Workers' Union

Air Malta pilots are the last group of workers not to have closed talks over new working conditions after the airline and the General Workers' Union this evening concluded an agreement on ground handlers

The third collective agreement out of four was concluded with the GWU on Wednesday evening
The third collective agreement out of four was concluded with the GWU on Wednesday evening
Konrad Mizzi on Air Malta pilots

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi remains confident an agreement will be reached with Air Malta pilots by year's end although he shies away from saying what would happen if the talks fail.

He was speaking this evening after the signing ceremony with the General Workers' Union over a collective agreement for ground handlers. The agreement is the third to be concluded by the airline, having previously closed deals with engineers and cabine crew.

The last agreement that has to be reached is with the pilots' union, however this is proving to be a stumbling block. Pilots are being asked to work more hours in line with international standards.

The government wants all agreements closed by the end of the year so that the airline can embark on a growth startegy next year in the hope that it would turn a profit in 2019. Air Malta has failed to make a profit despite a five-year restructuring plan agreed with the European Commission that ended in March 2016.

Mizzi told MaltaToday the offer on the table ensured more flexibility for the airline while provided pilots with the opportunity to earn more. He said Air Malta would be explaining over the coming days how first officers could be promoted to pilots as part of the growth startegy. "Some have been first officers for 12 years... there was a natural glass ceiling that we hope to break with growth," Mizzi said.

Air Malta today signed a collective agreement with the GWU on ground handling staff
Air Malta today signed a collective agreement with the GWU on ground handling staff

Meanwhile, the agreement reached with the GWU will see 450 ground handlers being hived off in a new state-owned company, to be named Air Malta Aviation Services, with the same conditions.

The new company, which will be created next year, will also include check-in desk workers from the airport’s departure lounge, and will service Air Malta, but also seek new business. 

An absolute majority of ground handlers voted in favour of the collective agreement, with 98% of those who are GWU members voting for the agreement, which is of a five year duration.

Josef Bugeja, GWU secretary general, said that the main conditions of the agreement involved a 19.9% salary increase for employees and improvements in shift allowances and other conditions. Moreover, it would give stability to the jobs of all ground handlers, and the majority of part-timers in the sector would switch to full-time employment.

The agreement signed today also included deals on the Early Retirement Scheme and Voluntary Retirement Scheme for workers.

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