Air Malta staff offered voluntary retirement scheme as transfers moved to December

Air Malta staff to vote on retirement package deal negotiated with airline unions at GWU headquarters today

Air Malta staff earmarked for early termination in August, will now leave the national airline by 31 December, 2022.

With the airline enjoying healthier summer loads as tourism picks up from the pandemic, more workers have had to be retained for service despite plans by the finance ministry to release 600 airline employees into the public service.

Plans changed this week during talks between unions and the finance ministry for a new 31 December deadline.

But a voluntary retirement scheme is also on offer, with dates of service based as at end 2022. Both this VETS and another early retirement scheme, are non-taxable and will be paid in a one-time instalment. Anyone taking one of the two schemes is not eligible for work in the public sector or the public service for the next six years.

The VETS proposal, which was agreed upon with the General Workers Union, the Union of Cabin Crew, the Airline Engineers association, and the AAOC union, will offer €40,000 to those who have served up to five years; €80,000 to those serving 5-10 years; €120,000 for 10-15 years of service; €150,000 for 15-20 years of service; €180,000 for 20-25 years; €210,000 for 25-30; and €240,000 for those of over 30 years of service.

Air Malta staff aged 50 and over are eligible for an early retirement scheme if they have served 20 years and over, to be paid two-thirds of their total take-home pay, capped at a maximum €300,000.

Separate meetings are being held for workers at the General Workers Union headquarters this week, where members will be asked to vote in favour or against the package.

On 14 January, government announced it would create a voluntary employee transfer scheme in a bid to cut Air Malta’s workforce by half and save €15 million per year in wages as part of a restructuring exercise.

On Sunday, MaltaToday revealed how a mid-August deadline for the transfer scheme to be completed has been moved to October, because airline bosses fear the exodus would hamper day-to-day operations.

The Nationalist Party said government’s plan to make Air Malta financially viable had failed. “Clyde Caruana should come clean and speak with the same honesty he spoke with last January, and say if government’s plan to restructure the airline is still credible and achievable,” PN Air Malta spokesperson Ivan J. Bartolo said.

The scheme would see Air Malta workers being employed by the government in grades commensurate with their current income. The company received 571 applications from the 824 eligible employees when the scheme closed on 11 February. This was more than the government was expecting.

Air Malta Executive Chairman David Curmi has told MaltaToday that a final deadline has yet to be decided and the company is in discussions with the unions.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Bartolo said the party had initially welcomed the plan, as it was similar to what it had suggested back in 2012. “I had recognised its importance in saving the airline, but eight months down the line it shows that not all risks and challenges were identified,” he said. “Fundamental principles in change management were not recognised.”

He also questioned whether the airline’s restructuring delay would be affecting the European Commission’s approval for state-aid for Air Malta.