[WATCH] PN insists Air Malta should not sell off 49% of shares

MP Claudio Grech says Air Malta should not hive off its main functions, staff should be allowed to invest in airline

Opposition MP Claudio Grech
Opposition MP Claudio Grech
PN insists Air Malta shouldn't sell off 49% of its shares

The Nationalist Party insisted that Air Malta shouldn't sell off 49% of its shares to Alitalia, warning that doing so would risk relinquishing control of the airline's management and direction.

"We agree with the concept of a strategic partner for Air Malta that goes beyond code sharing, but this shouldn't necessarily include the sale of so many shares," shadow economy minister Claudio Grech told a press conference. 

He said that Air Malta's memorandum of understanding with Alitalia - tabled in Parliament yesterday - leaves it unclear as to whether the Italian airline will inject any capital into the Air Malta.

He suggested that government explore other means of increasing Air Malta's capital, including selling off some of its shares to local investors and institutions.

The MOU refers to a “substantial cost saving strategy”, based on “lean and efficient hub operations”, “redesigning and automating processes and working arrangements in line with best practices” and “rationalizing resources to ensure viability and profitability of the airline”.

Grech said that the PN will not object to some of Air Malta’s staff being transferred to other jobs within the public sector, but suggested that some back office functions at Alitalia and Etihad –which itself owns 49% of the Italian airline - could be transferred to Air Malta.  

He added that any wage cuts to Air Malta employees should be allowed to invest in the airline’s shares to make up for any potential cuts to their salaries.  

“Air Malta employees were forced to make financial sacrifices over the years, and they should play a part in the business going forward,” he said. “There are a number of interesting models that will allow savings from workers' take-home pay to be commuted into equity in the company.”

Opposition MP Censu Galea went a step further, stating that the Alitalia deal should be an opportunity to improve the conditions of Air Malta’s current workforce.

“The PN will embark on a consultation period with all stakeholders, including workers, unions and civil society,” he said.  

Fellow MP Antoine Borg said that the PN will insist with government later this week that Air Malta should not surrender any of its routes, route frequencies, or airport slots.

‘Don’t hive off Air Malta’s key functions’ 

Grech also insisted that any final deal should not see Air Malta's key day-to-day functions –such as engineering - hived off to another airline.

"Air Malta can trim off some of its more technical parts, but it should never let go of its centres of competence, or it will risk growing dependent on other airlines,” he said.

"It's a fine line between reducing costs and ensuring that Air Malta can survive if the partnership fails." 

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