Watch: Fired Air Malta pilots made to return uniform

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Air Malta fired 69 of its pilots late on Friday night, the vice president of the pilot association, Matthew Degiorgio, told Newsbook.com.mt, on Monday. The sacked pilots turned up at Air Malta’s head office in Skyparks to return their uniform and company equipment.

Speaking to Newsbook.com.mt, the pilots said that they had sought legal advice and were informed that they could opt not to return their uniform and company equipment. However, many decided to turn up and protest against the redundancies which the airline made.

The court had previously upheld a prohibitory injunction filed by the association, ALPA, to stop the laying off of 69 pilots. The case will be heard on Monday.

Negotiations between the national airline and the association representing its pilots were well underway, with Degiorgio describing them as “constructive” as both parties sought to reach an agreement on how to restructure the operations in order to make them more efficient and cost effective. Degiorgio remarked that following a meeting held with Economy Minister Silvio Schembri and Air Malta chairman Charles Mangion, the pilots were assured that their were no problems with their financial package, since it was deemed competitive in the aviation field. ALPA was assured that there would be no redundancies. He added that they even discussed the possibility of giving up certain rights which were provided for in the collective agreement.

The costs of renouncing to certain collective agreement clauses were worked out by aviation experts engaged by ALPA. Degiorgio added that this was a request which was made by Air Malta itself. He remarked that the value of the condition the airline wanted pilots to give up from their collective agreement would add up to €73 million. The vice president highlighted that at no point did ALPA demand a €700,000 compensation per pilot.

The government had claimed that the union was insisting on an early retirement package of €73 million. The association then issued a statement explaining that the value was based on what had been agreed upon in the collective agreement. The airline however, fired the pilots before the scheduled talks took place.

Degiorgio told Newsbook.com.mt that fellow pilots were surprised when they were informed that they were being made redundant. The association immediately took the necessary legal measures to protect its members from being made redundant.

He added that the national airline was not made aware that ALPA would file a prohibitory injunction. Had the discussions succeeded, the national airline would have saved a total of €100 million in expenses over 25 years, Degiorgio concluded.