[WATCH] Court upholds Air Malta injunction against pilots’ industrial action

Tourism Minister: Malta’s national carrier will be ‘kept alive’ but that the economy was ‘more important’

The courts have upheld an injuction filed by Air Malta against industrial action by pilots union ALPA, to delay all flights by 30 minutes from Monday.

The court has, as is customary in such cases, upheld an injunction by Air Malta to stop the industrial action.

The court case in this regard is expected to be heard on 5 July.

READ MOREPilots’ industrial action: all Air Malta planes to fly 30 minutes late

The pilots’ union is demanding that the government agree that a promised €700,000, which will be given to each pilot for early retirement at 55, be guaranteed even in the event that Air Malta should go bust as a company.

In a Facebook video on Monday afternoon, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi insisted that while the government had a plan in place which will see the national carrier grow, the safeguarding of Malta’s economy came first.

Mizzi said the pilots’ union demands were “unacceptable”, and that while the government would “keep working” on Air Malta, “all options would be considered.”

“In 2012, the Nationalist adminstration of the time gave the pilots an early retirement scheme – for which there is a contract signed – whereby they will get €700,000 each if they retire early, at 55,” Mizzi said.

“ALPA is demanding that the government and the taxpayer guarantee that if Air Malta fails for any reason, they still be paid the €700,000,” he said. “This is unaccaptable.”

“We are convinced that Air Malta will remain in existence and will grow,” Mizzi emphasised, “[...] But the only way this can be done is if ALPA and stakeholders are on the same page as us.”

Underlining that it would not back down to any threats, he stressed that ”the government will not give any guarantees which it is unable to give. It will keep working on Air Malta, and will consider all options – I will be honest.”

The minister reiterated Air Malta’s vision to grow in North Africa, in Sub-Saharan Africa, in India and Northern Europe. “But to do this, we need a flexible airline,” he underscored.

“If Air Malta finds itself not in a positon to expand, the government can use Malta Med Air - a government company – so we have options. The government’s objective has to be reached,” Mizzi added.

He went on to warn that the government would use every measure under the sun “to stop this illegal [industrial action]”.

Earlier

In a statement this morning, Air Malta said that despite the company’s expectation that “good sense would prevail,” ALPA had issued directives to its members to take industrial action, which included a 30-minute delay on all flights starting Monday.

Air Malta said that the action was due to the government and Air Malta’s major shareholders declining the request to guarantee the pilots’ early retirement scheme pay-out, which sees individual pilots getting some €700,000 each at age 55.

Air Malta said that soon after having signed a new collective agreement in January 2018, ALPA “made it clear that it had other demands to make and had raised multiple issues with the Company.”

It said that in an effort to maintain “industrial peace and avoid prejudicing its operations,” the company had sought to discuss with ALPA, and “bend over backwards to achieve a compromise position which, while allowing it to compete as effectively as possible, would appease the pilots and avoid disruptions.”

The airline said that after almost 18 months of discussions, “amid various challenges,” which included threatened industrial action from the pilots themselves on 28 June 2018 Air Malta and ALPA had reached a “compromise position on all matters under discussion.”

However, it said that the company’s “relief” was however short-lived when during the meeting itself ALPA declared that “if the government did not accept to grant the guarantees ALPA was after, it would take industrial action as of the 1 July 2019.”

“Whereas Air Malta acknowledges that taking industrial action is a right protected by law, such right is not unrestricted and Air Malta cannot bear the consequence of a disagreement between its employees and its shareholder,” Air Malta said.

“ALPA’s demands do not even qualify as a trade dispute, thereby forfeiting the immunity granted by law to the union and its members for acts done in furtherance of a trade dispute.”

The airline said that ALPA also failed to give them adequate notice of such action as per the terms of the collective agreement.

“In order to safeguard its right, its operation and with a view to avoiding further inconvenience to its clients, Air Malta has filed an application requesting the Court to stop ALPA and its members from taking any further illegal action which is prejudicial to the Company and its rights. Air Malta will quantify the damages suffered as a consequence of the illegal action taken and will seek to recover such damages from the pilots.”

 

More in National