Updated | Air Malta flights delayed due to cabin crew industrial action

Union representatives are set to meet the airline's management on Monday to discuss the issue

Flights have been delayed  by roughly half an hour after the union of cabin crew ordered industrial action late last night
Flights have been delayed by roughly half an hour after the union of cabin crew ordered industrial action late last night

A number of Air Malta flights have been delayed by roughly half an hour after the Union of Cabin Crew (UCC) informed Air Malta last night that it had ordered its members to start industrial action, an Air Malta spokesman has confirmed. 

The airline confirmed that some flights had been affected but stressed that none had been delayed by more than 30 minutes, adding that it was currently holding discussions with members of the union. This morning while addressing a political activity, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted that “nothing and no one” would stand in the way of the airline and the government taking important decisions on the airline’s future.

Tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, when contacted about the matter, also confirmed the industrial action but said that a meeting between the airline and the union was scheduled for Monday.

“I am informed that Air Malta management tried to meet the union yesterday but UCC was not ready to meet before Monday,” said Mizzi, adding that “everyone would have to bear the responsibility for their actions”.  

The industrial action comes as Air Malta negotiates a new collective agreement with its cabin crew, who were last month reported to have been considering industrial action over disagreements with the airline, prompting Mizzi to state that the government would be left with no option but to close and re-open the airline if unions did not support the airline's efforts to return to profitability. This led to a four out of seven union members resigning after claiming they had not been consulted before decisions were taken on their behalf.

Last month, the government also announced that it had offered Air Malta's employees a 19% increase over five years in exchange for increased productivity, stressing that the airline's employee's and unions needed to understand that they must work with the company and the government while changes are implemented to make the airline profitable. 

Asked what progress had been made in negotiating the new collective agreement, Mizzi reiterated that there was a “strong business plan” in place for Air Malta that would result in a bright future for the airline but which also needed the cooperation of all employees.

“We’re unbundling our services and revenue is going up. We can make the airline work without subsidies…but by December we need to have a collective agreement in place,” he said.

Mizzi explained that the airline’s position was currently such that, with the arrival of a new aircraft intended to allow Air Malta to further grow its operation, it needed more flexibility on the part of employees.

“If once the new aircraft comes in we don’t have the flexibility to operate it with the same number of crew we will not break even,” he said. “With the business plan we have, the new plane will provide a positive contribution, but without those changes [to the business plan] we will struggle.

Attempts to contact union representatives have so far proved futile.

More in National