'Amateur' government chose to lay off Air Malta workers during peak tourism season - PN

PN says Air Malta workers face uncertainty and demoralisation, as the date on which hundreds of workers are set to leave, draws closer

PN MPs Jerome Caruana Cilia (left) and Ivan Castillo (right)
PN MPs Jerome Caruana Cilia (left) and Ivan Castillo (right)

The Nationalist Party questioned the government's strategy when choosing a date in midst of the peak tourism season, on which hundreds of Air Malta employees are set to leave the company under the voluntary transfer scheme.

During a press conference on Wednesday, PN MPs Jerome Caruana Cilia and Ivan Castillo called the situation within Air Malta “disastrous” and questioned whether government had a proper plan for the airline.

In January Finance Minister Clyde Caruana had announced that Air Malta’s workforce would be halved under plans to make the airline financially viable. The employees who chose to voluntarily leave the company were offered alternative employment with the government.

“The workers have found themselves in a crisis and are demoralised. Why does the government keep trying to trick those same workers who cooperated so well,” Castillo said.

He stated that there is a possibility that the contracts there were signed by Minister Caruana would not be honoured.

“The workers are worried about their wages, during a period of inflation. They are worried they won’t have the same quality of life as before. They feel betrayed by the government.”

Castillo questioned why the government chose the 12 August as the date during which the workers would leave Air Malta.

“Government showed a clear lack of planning and foresight. It chose a date for workers to leave, during which the touristic activity peaks and when the airline requires the most workers. This situation induces stress and jeopardises the airline's existence.”

“The government sold a fantasy prior to the election. You can’t trust this government and the closer we get to the 12 August, the more uncertainty reigns with the airline,” Castillo said.

Castillo added that Minister Caruana was using bullying tactics, telling workers that they had no option but to accept the deal.

He also said the government was unable to assure the promised wage matching scheme to the employees. Castillo stated that only 20% of the employees had moved and the rest of the 515 workers had to be transferred within 15 days.

In February the airline had said it had received 571 applications from workers to be transferred onto the government’s books.

Caruana Cilia expressed solidarity with the Air Malta employees and said PN spoke to the workers and their families, who said they were “broken” by the situation.

“Government showed amateurish planning. Is there an actual strategy for the airline and what is the plan for the wage matching scheme? Many workers had their plans destroyed,” Caruana Cilia said.

He said it was illogical for Air Malta, which is crucial for the tourism sector, to lay off the workers in the midst of summer.

Caruana Cilia said that instead of seeking to recover the millions stolen, Clyde Caruana approached the ministers, asking them to cut €200 million from their budget.

“I hope that the Air Malta employees won’t be the first to suffer as a result,” Caruana Cilia said.

He mentioned a number of direct orders, dished out by the government recently, saying that millions were being spent recklessly.

“The Air Malta workers get the crumbs while millions go to the corrupt clique. We want our money back. The taxes we pay should be used efficiently and not in reckless spending.”