Air Malta and pilots’ union reach agreement

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis reveals the airline and pilots’ union have reached an agreement following lengthy negotiations

The agreement was reached late yesterday night between tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis, ALPA president Domenic Azzopardi, former President George Abela and AirMalta chairperson Maria Micallef
The agreement was reached late yesterday night between tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis, ALPA president Domenic Azzopardi, former President George Abela and AirMalta chairperson Maria Micallef

Air Malta and the Airline Pilots Association ALPA reached an agreement late Thursday evening that would “secure Air Malta’s long-term viability”.

It was tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis himself who tweeted the news at 11.09 pm, stating: “After long negotiations, we have reached an agreement with @AlpaMalta to secure @AirMalta's long term viability.”

The airline and the union had been locking horns ever since Air Malta filed a prohibitory injunction in court, in an attempt to stop the pilots from taking industrial action.

Their application was turned down by the court, after the pilots’ union representative declared in court the union would not take any action that could lead the airline to cancel flights.

The union had been insisting that the airline release crucial details about the proposed deal that will see Alitalia take a 49% shareholding, and at the end of last week, it ordered the pilots not to work on their days off.

In a joint statement issued shortly after the agreement was reached, the tourism minister and ALPA stated the agreement reached safeguarded the interests of the government, as the majority shareholder in Air Malta, and of all the pilots as well as safeguarding the future of the airline itself.

The minister thanked ALPA for its cooperation, adding this would ensure the airline’s future commercial viability.

The minister and ALPA also thanked president emeritus George Abela and Air Malta chairperson Maria Micallef for their contribution in the negotiations.

ALPA president Dominic Azzopardi had last week told MaltaToday that pilots would no longer report to work when called for duty on their days off, and that an end date for the industrial action has not yet been set.

Air Malta had postponed negotiations on new collective agreements until 31 August, when it expects to have concluded discussions on its business plan with the Italian flag carrier.

However, Dominic Azzopardi said that workers have a right to know certain details within the business plan, such as whether the fleet will be downsized and whether any of them will be laid off.

He had dismissed tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis’ promise not to leave any Air Malta employees unemployed, arguing that pilots are seeking reassurances of their future in their specific careers. “If Malta had a large military service, then perhaps some pilots could find jobs in the army’s air force, but that is not the case. Does he expect pilots to work as secretaries in government departments? It’s insulting.”

‘Air Malta’s CEO: from one cushy job to another’

Azzopardi reacted cynically to Air Malta’s new acting CEO Joe Galea’s rallying cry in an email, in which he told the airline’s employees that “we’re all in this together” and that “you have stuck together through thick and thin because of your belief that [Air Malta] can overcome the hurdles ahead”.

“[Galea] is a nice guy but he’s landed a cushy job at Air Malta, after working at a cushy job at the Malta Tourism Authority,” Azzopardi said, referring to Galea’s stint as the MTA’s director of international marketing in Germany.

“I think he was being sarcastic when he wrote that e-mail. He’s only just arrived here; who is he to preach to us about the need for unity?” he asked. “We may all be on the same boat but like the Titanic, he’ll have another ship to jump on in case it all goes belly up, while we’ll be left to sink.”

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