Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Malta Air – a Malta-based subsidiary of low-cost airline Ryanair – has announced that 40 cabin crew are to be made redundant on 1 January, with the airline blaming the General Workers’ Union’s failure to accept a revised collective agreement that would include pay cuts and revised working conditions.
But in comments to Newsbook.com.mt, GWU secretary-general Josef Bugeja highlighted that the airline’s proposals were overwhelmingly rejected by the workers themselves, not least since Malta Air refused to guarantee that their jobs would be safeguarded.
Pandemic leaves airline facing ‘untenable’ situation
In a brief statement, Malta Air said that an agreement had been agreed with the GWU on Thursday, only for the union to fail to deliver. This was contradicted by Bugeja, however, who said that the union sought to push back on certain measures to no avail, leaving it no other option than to present the airline’s proposals to the cabin crew it represented.
“This emergency agreement included modest pay cuts (to be restored over four years) along with a minimum pay guarantee and a year 3 review. Malta Air is operating at just 10% of its capacity due to the Covid-19 crisis but is still employing 100% of its pre-Covid Cabin Crew headcount, which is an untenable situation in an industry which has been devastated by Covid-19 and will take many years to recover,” Malta Air had maintained.
Bugeja announced that an existing collective agreement – signed before the GWU gained recognition – was valid until March 2023. Malta Air sought to replace it with a new agreement that would last until June 2024. According to this proposed agreement, salaries would be cut 6.5% across the board, along with other revisions to working conditions. The GWU strongly opposed the plans to restore salaries fully only in 2024, and the airline ultimately conceded a year 3 review.
Union accepts pay cuts, but seeks job guarantees
The airline had sought to make 60 cabin crew redundant last June, just as the GWU gained recognition, but these plans were ultimately staved off.
Bugeja emphasised that in light of the circumstances, the union was ready to accept pay cuts – even if it disagreed with keeping them in place for 4 years. But the union was adamant that such cuts needed to be backed up by job guarantees which the airline was not ready to provide.
According to the GWU chief, the workers involved shared similar concerns, and 85% rejected the emergency agreement, leading Malta Air to announce the redundancies and blame the union.
“Sadly, without this emergency agreement (which was already agreed by Malta Air pilots) cabin crew job losses can no longer be avoided. As a direct result of the GWU’s failure to deliver upon its agreement with Malta Air, there will be 40 cabin crew redundancies implemented and these job losses will take effect on January 1st next,” an airline spokesperson announced.
The union, however, is yet to give up the fight, with Bugeja announcing that it is now seeking conciliation in a bid to avoid having 40 cabin crew start the new year jobless.
PN questions government’s inaction as Malta Air strategic partner
Malta Air’s announcement saw Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech take to Facebook to express solidarity with the 40 workers facing the loss of their job in the Christmas season. Grech urged the government to provide all the assistance it can to the affected cabin crew.
His party similarly expressed solidarity in a statement to the press, but emphasised how Malta Air was founded in partnership with the government, which had a share in the company. The PN questioned how the government, as a strategic partner, failed to do its utmost to avoid the redundancies.
It also criticised Malta Air for the timing of its announcement, just three days shy of Christmas.
The PN urged the GWU and the government to do all that was possible to assist the affected workers in such a difficult period, and insisted that the government should safeguard the interest of all those who have been made redundant.