Pilots association files two industrial disputes against Air Malta

Pilots protest against the placing of unpopular former CFOO Emvic Debono on an Operator Conversion Course and the airline's stated intention of re-employment of pilots made redundant under different terms and seniority

Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) has filed two simultaneous industrial disputes against Air Malta
Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) has filed two simultaneous industrial disputes against Air Malta

The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) has filed two industrial disputes with Air Malta relating to problems rooted in decisions made while Konrad Mizzi was minister in charge of Air Malta.

The first dispute dealt with Emvic Debono, who the association said had been employed by Mizzi as Chief of Flight Operations without previous experience. He was initially told that his contract would not be renewed, but after a sudden U-turn Debono was re-instated and he started preparations for flight operations. This whilst 69 pilots made redundant last year remain jobless, the association pointed out .

Debono, formerly the Chief Flight Operations Officer, has been a divisive figure at Air Malta, with the Union previously launching industrial action until he was taken off talks involving the airline.

In a notice registering an industrial dispute, the association wrote to David Curmi, Executive Chairman at Air Malta, saying that it noted that “the company’s plans for Mr. Debono to follow [an Operator Conversion Course] was not appropriately discussed during the meetings held recently in the presence of the Minister for Finance and Employment. This, notwithstanding that the EC had been given the impression that such talks had, in fact, been initiated in order to discuss the development of a new relationship between ALPA and the company’s management, which, in itself would have been geared towards the maintenance of industrial peace and stability.”

This peace and stability presupposed discussions aimed at the reinstatement of pilots made redundant a year ago. “The fact that the company’s plans for Mr. Debono have, to date, not been appropriately discussed with ALPA’s representatives is, therefore, disconcerting.”

The second dispute is regarding the re-employment of pilots. ALPA claims the Chairman and Minister do not want to respect seniority, despite the fact that 51 of those made redundant had  seniority, jobs and pay packages guaranteed by Konrad Mizzi

In its letter informing the airline of industrial action, ALPA made reference to a meeting held at the Ministry for Finance and Employment on 1st June, 2021, with specific reference to Curmi’s “clear statement of intent to re-employ an indeterminate and unspecified number of pilots who were made redundant with effect from 8th June, 2020, when the need arises, and under different terms and conditions from those which were particular and applicable to the seniority of such pilots prior to the said date.”

During that meeting Curmi also confirmed that this would be done after a call for applications and that he was not willing to reconsider this position.

The union says it had explained that this constitutes an issue of principle for the pilot community, and that he was also warned of the consequences of this course of action. “This statement of intent was also confirmed by the Minister of Finance and Employment himself, who also took on a leading role in dismissing the legitimate concerns raised by the EC in relation to the problems which Air Malta’s operations will face should the company follow through.”

“This course of action constitutes a clear violation of the contractual commitments undertaken in virtue of the Collective Agreement currently in force, as well as a clear violation of the contractual commitments undertaken by the main shareholder of the company, the Government of Malta.”

In its notice of industrial action, an adamant ALPA reiterated that this matter is non-negotiable. “Make no mistake, ALPA will resist any further attempts by the company to trample on the contractual rights of its members and it will be taking the necessary measures in order to safeguard their prerogatives should the company not retreat from the course of action outlined above, and should a satisfactory agreement not be reached in this respect.”