Unions rally round cabin crew over Air Malta baguette dispute

Unions say hoteliers MHRA should steer clear of undermining union in protest against being fed baguettes as part of Air Malta cost-cuts 

Unions’ federation Forum has called on cabin crew union UCC not to be deterred in its work following criticism by employers association, Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.

The Union of Cabin Crew are protesting Air Malta’s intention of giving crew a baguette as part of its downscaling of economy class meals. The union says this is a breach of collective agreements to give crew suitable meals onboard aircraft.

“It has almost become a habit of employers’ associations to attack unions when they resort to legitimate industrial action. This seems to be especially the case when such unions are affiliated with Forum Unions Maltin,” Forum president Paul Pace said.

The UCC are currently in talks with Air Malta.

“One cannot but express concern that employers’ association seem to have become experts in all areas and seem to expect unions to ignore their right to defend their members.

“MHRA was one of the entities who exerted pressure on the previous administration to support low cost airlines, to their benefit, in full knowledge that this measure could impact heavily the national airline,” Pace said.

The Forum president said that Air Malta management had no right to alter conditions in collective agreements on the pretext of “saving the company” at the detriment of workers’ conditions. “MHRA was never directly involved in the current dispute. It beggars belief that this entity is bashing a union who is carrying out its work. None of the unions complained against MHRA’s stand on the ‘excessive’ VAT issue raised by the same entity.”

Earlier this week, the MHRA called on the UCC to support the airline as it forged ahead with its restructuring efforts to cut costs. The airline has benefited from a one-time only €230 million cash injection under EU state aid rules and has to turn a profit within the next years to survive.

The UCC action followed Air Malta’s decision to replace the economy class meal and the meal offered to cabin crew aboard the aircraft with a baguette and a small bottle of water, a move the UCC says breaches a condition of the collective agreement, which says that crew should be offered ‘suitable meals’.

Air Malta’s management and UCC representatives met to discuss outstanding issues. 

“Unless change happens then the airline will not survive and the consequences of this demise will have a major impact on Malta’s tourism as well as the economy as a whole,” the MHRA said. 

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