[WATCH] Prime Minister: Back-up plan exists if pilot agreement not reached - the people's interest comes first

It appeared pilots did not want to work more hours, despite salary increases offered by government, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, but the government would not concede to them this time

The government has a back-up plan in place if pilots do not want to accept the government's offer and reach an agreement, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today
The government has a back-up plan in place if pilots do not want to accept the government's offer and reach an agreement, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today


If Air Malta pilots do not accept the government’s offer and reach an agreement with it, the government has a back-up plan in place, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today, as he heavily emphasised that he would not allow a small group of people to in any way put into jeopardy Malta’s economic progress.

The government had offered pay increases to pilots, including €72,000 to first officers and €105,000 to pilots, each over a five year period, the Prime Minister said, during an address to supporters at the Birkirkara Labour Party club, however pilots would in turn have to work more, and meet the international working hours standards of the airline industry.

“I heard - not officially, but through the grapevine - that pilots are unwilling to reach an agreement with us because they do not want to work more hours. They are telling us that they want to keep their existing hours and not have any salary increase. I have never negotiated with any category of workers who told us something like this,” he said.

“Previous governments have always had to concede to workers. But this time that is not going to happen. I am here to protect pilots who want to work and to protect all other Air Malta workers. But most of all I am here to serve the people and to safeguard Malta’s economy.”

He said that his appeal to pilots was clear: the government would not be put into a tight corner, and it was ready for anything that could happen. It would do all that is necessary to ensure Malta always has a national airline, and would take any legal measures necessary to protect Air Malta’s interests and the interests of the people, he asserted.

The pilots were now at a crossroads and at a moment of a crucial decision, he said, and they would have to bare responsibility for the choices they made.

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Muscat also highlighted how the festive season has shown how well off people were, and how much purchasing power they had.

“We will not stop here,” he said, “2018 will be a year when we break all records - a year of success for the economy, for families, for businesses and for our country. Wealth is going to keep increasing, and our job is to spread it across society.”

He told his supporters at the club that the Opposition had criticised the government this week for encouraging private sector investment and involving itself in that investment.

“[Nationalist MP] Claudio Grech said that instead of having this approach, the government should enter into debt. But debt is like a drug - it is a viscious circle, and once you enter into it, you might continously keep increasing your level of debt,” he said, “We, however, manged to eliminate all the debt the country was in.”

“When the rest of the world worries about the price of oil, Malta, a tiny island, can say that it has a guarantee of low electricity prices in place, regardless of the price of oil. That puts people’s minds at rest,” the Prime Minister claimed, to cheers from those at the club.

Turning to Valletta 2018, he said that the previous Nationalist administration, through former Prim Minister Lawrence Gonzi and ex-tourism minister Mario DeMarco, had started a number of projects to improve the capital city, and the Labour government had continued them.

“When V18 is launched on Saturday, I want to see a united people enjoying the biggest investment in culture in the history of Malta,” he said.

He added, in reference to the claims that his wife Michelle Muscat owned the eGrant Panama company, that facts which had emerged this week showed that what had been said about him and his family was a lie.

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