[WATCH] 'Pilots stopped from striking to save Air Malta’s future' - Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says that stopping pilots' union from taking 'disproportionate industrial action' necessary to save national airline's future 

'Pilots stopped from striking to save Air Malta’s future' - Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says that Air Malta took legal action to stop pilots from taking “disproportionate industrial action” so as to save the national airline’s future.

When asked by MaltaToday, Muscat denied any contradiction in the fact that the legal action was being instigated by a Labour administration.

“We are in no way trying to clamp down on the rights of pilots to take industrial action, but rather to stop them from taking disproportionate action that could jeopardise the future of the entire airline,” Muscat said at a press conference at Castille. “If Air Malta fails, then we would no longer be talking about potential wage increases to pilots, but rather about a failed airline.”

A court last week provisionally upheld a warrant of prohibitory injunction filed by Air Malta against the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), in order to prevent the union from ordering any industrial action “that could impede the company’s operations, financial position or effect on-going negotiations”.

ALPA will contest the injunction in court on Friday, and its president Dominic Azzopardi has already lambasted it as a “clear threat to the right of free association of workers, as well as to their entitlement to safeguard as a last option these rights by resorting to industrial action.”

A few days before the injunction was filed, Azzopardi had warned that pilots were ready to step up industrial action, including delaying flights and going on strike altogether, unless their calls for improved conditions were met.

The current industrial action is limited to a dress-down directive, with pilots refusing to wear their caps and jackets to work.

Muscat said that talks with all other Air Malta workers’ unions are proceeding well and that he is ready to give every stakeholder, including ALPA, the benefit of the doubt during the negotiations with Alitalia.

“This isn’t a question of popularity, but about what a company can afford,” he said of the negotiations that could see the Italian airline acquire 49% of Air Malta. “Unlike previous administrations, we do not have the option to shoot the ball of the airline’s future towards the next election. The action we are taking is intended to keep Air Malta alive.”

After months of speculation, the government in April signed a memorandum of understanding with Alitalia that will see the Italian airline acquire a 49% stake in the ailing Air Malta.

However, Alitalia has warned Air Malta that the entire deal rests on the outcome of its negotiations with the pilots’ union.