Updated | Pilots withdraw union action after injunction, accuse Air Malta of ‘distorting facts’

Pilots’ union says industrial action was in response to airline’s attempts to ‘deploy crew illegally against stipulated procedures’

Air Malta pilots in 2016 in Valletta, contesting a court injunction against industrial action
Air Malta pilots in 2016 in Valletta, contesting a court injunction against industrial action

Updated at 10:45am with MHRA statement

The Airline Pilots Association has said it will not be “intimidated” by Air Malta after the national airline filed a court injunction to prevent the pilots’ union from taking industrial action.

The court, as is normal, upheld the injunction until the hearing on Friday 5 July.

ALPA has temporarily withdrawn industrial action until a ruling is delivered in relation to the merits thereof in order to let justice take its course.

ALPA said Air Malta’s action would not detract from its obligations towards its members, as well as its responsibilities relating to safeguarding airline passengers.

The union has demanded that the government guarantees its €700,000 early retirement scheme at age 55, in the case of the national airline going bankrupt.

The union said it resorted to industrial action in response to the airline management’s “numerous attempts to deploy crew illegally against the stipulated procedures, as well as in response to the company’s persistent failure to address concerns relating to the safety and wellbeing of its members.”

ALPA accused Air Malta of “distorting indisputable facts” as well as “painting a false and unclear picture” of the current state of affairs.

“It is now clear that Air Malta’s management team has decided to resort to half-truths and measures, as well as blatant and capricious lies, in order to cover the ineptitude and mismanagement which has become prevalent within the higher tiers of the company.”

ALPA said that Air Malta’s flight crew was entrusted by the airline’s passengers to safely carry out the daily operations of the company. “This is done diligently and to the utmost and best of our members’ ability, who have, on many occasions, unwillingly agreed to forego their legal rights and entitlement when faced with threats and intimidation by the airline’s management.”

MHRA: Air Malta pilots' calls must be reasonable

The pension guarantee of €700,000 per person the pilots are seeking from the goverment is "unreasonable", Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said in a statement.

"2019 has seen the demise of a number of European carriers, one of the latest being Iceland’s WOW airlines.  WOW’s bankruptcy hit not only the employees of the airline but had a considerable effect on Iceland’s economy," MHRA said, adding that in the fiercely competitive industry, only the lowest costs would survive.

"Air Malta has been given a lifeline by the EU with an injection of €250 million on a ‘one-time last time’ basis, like other airlines continuously fighting for their life.  It therefore is incumbent on all those who are part of Air Malta to contribute towards the survival and growth of the airline. It therefore is incumbent on all who are part of Air Malta to contribute towards the survival and growth of the airline," the statement read.

MHRA argued that while the pilots do a fine job, so do others in the same airline and so do many others across Malta's economy, referring to the pilots' demand for a pension guarantee as unreasonable and excessive, threatening MHRA and the wider economy as a whole.

"If excessive demands continue, it may lead to Air Malta facing the same fate of many other airlines which to date have gone bankrupt, something which MHRA is sure no one wants but could be inevitable due to a wrong attitude by stakeholders," the association said.

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