Air Malta pilots’ demands: 30% basic salary increase, increased duty payments, double ‘denied leave’ payment

Sources allege collective agreement demands add €7 million to an €11 million salary bill • Union sources: ‘demands part of first draft that was not approved’

A fuller picture of Air Malta’s pilots’ demands has emerged in a hit-list submitted in the court proceedings for an injunction to stop industrial action by the pilots.

The demands seen by MaltaToday specify an increase of 30% on pilots’ basic salaries, which currently range from €36,000 for first officers to €63,000 for pilots, before being topped up with additional payments for flying hours. The increase would raise the basic salary to €48,000-€92,000.

In their last four-year collective agreement, a €4.5 million deal sealed back in 2012, and Air Malta pilots saw their salaries go up cumulatively by 3% every year.

Today they earn €17,000 over and above what they were paid in 2012, an increase of about 30%. A revised scale syste capped salaries at €90,800 for pilots and €58,200 for first officers.

Also included in the collective agreement was the points-based system called “weighted units”: this accords additional payments when pilots and first officers are called in for duty. This increase alone was tagged at some €5,000 extra over the four-year period.

Now in a draft of demands seen by MaltaToday, these conditions are once again on the negotiation table and the Airline Pilots Association wants to see further increases.

Basic salary increase

First in line is the 30% increase, which would raise basic salaries to €48,000 and up to €92,000 before additional payments.

Guaranteed 165 ‘weighted units’ at €30 per unit

Then pilots asked for a “guaranteed” 165 weighted units per month, instead of varying according to when they are called in for duty: that would work out at 165 units for a month in which they fly an average 55 hours, far less than European counterparts.

The ‘low rate’ units would be tagged at the rate of €30 for captains and €20 for first officers; The ‘high rate’ units would be tagged at €45 and €30 for captains and first officers respectively.

Denied off penalty doubled

ALPA also wants “denied off” – a €750 penalty the airline pays all 118 pilots when leave days are removed from the monthly roster, usually due to peak season flights – to be doubled, that is to €1,500. The system currently pays out €250 each day on a three-day basis, €750, when leave days are denied by the airline.

Backdated increments to January 2016

The union wants pilots to be paid an increment on the monthly salary since the expiry of the collective agreement.

Negotiators balk at demands

Sources close to the negotiations in talks with Alitalia, the Italian national airline that is seeking to acquire a 49% minority stake in Air Malta, have told this newspaper that Airline Pilots Association’s (ALPA) collective demands would add anything between €6 million to €7 million, over an €11 million salary for the airline’s 118 pilots.

This newspaper is unable to quantify this claim. 

Sources in pilots’ union ALPA who preferred to stay anonymous, insisted with MaltaToday that the 30% basic salary increase is part of an alleged “first draft” of demands.

Other sources close to the negotiations told MaltaToday on Tuesday that an alleged demand for a €50,000 increase in their take-home pay, was proposed over a three-month period and for all pilots: specifically, a monthly €140 for three months as a “stop-gap solution until a new collective agreement is signed.”

Pilots who spoke to this newspaper say they have seen €1,000 drop in their monthly wages over the past years since the number of Air Malta flights has decreased, when the airline reduced its aircraft from 12 to eight.

Air Malta has so far refused to meet the pilots’ demands to raise salaries, which range from €65,000 to well over €106,000 for a flight captain, and €120,000 for management pilots: unlike European airline standards, they fly an average of just 56 hours a month. 

Government sources on the other hand say the agreement with Alitalia hinges on guarantees that will improve productivity from Air Malta’s pilots. “Failure to reach an agreement with the pilots will lead to a breakdown in talks with Alitalia.”

The pilots’ union has been a major critic of Air Malta’s restructuring efforts ever since a €230 million deal was inked with the European Commission to scale down the bloated airline and turn it around to a profit-making business by 2016. 

The targets are now out of reach for the ailing airline, with Air Malta pinning its hopes on Alitalia to bail it out.

ALPA accuses Air Malta’s management of downsizing its aircraft fleet to the detriment of market share, and claims senior management enjoys remuneration packages that would make the public balk.

The union goes to court on Friday 22 July to contest the prohibitory injunction against any further industrial action.

More in National