Update 2: Air Malta says it lost €2.5 million because of ALPA, union reacts
Air Malta said today it lost €2.5 million in revenue when ALPA, the airline pilots' association, blocked it from leasing an extra aircraft.
The company also accused ALPA of submitting requests in the collective agreement which amounted to more than €10 million over the period covered by the agreement.
ALPA also issued directives to its members after Air Malta agreed to attend a conciliation meeting with the director of employment and industrial relations and it initially expected the company to accommodate them so as not to pay income tax on part of their earnings, even though this was against the law, Air Malta said.
The company was reacting to an announcement by ALPA earlier today that it had registered an industrial dispute with Air Malta following the airline's decision to terminate negotiations and take a final stand on a collective agreement, now two years overdue, the airline said it was adamant not to allow the ALPA executive committee disrupt the restructuring process.
“The action being taken by ALPA is intended to disrupt the operation of the airline. Air Malta is disappointed that ALPA fails to see the big picture and continues to focus on what is now its own narrow self-interests.
“Over the past few weeks every attempt has been made by the company to convince ALPA that the requests being made by the union were unsustainable and to the detriment of its members, the company and the country at large.
“Air Malta, although not surprised by the attitude adopted by ALPA, is, however, shocked by the position adopted by the union that it has no qualms seeing the company go bankrupt if they are not given what they want.
“To Air Malta’s management and the board of directors this is irresponsible and unprofessional behaviour and can’t be accepted.”
Air Malta said it made what it considered fair and responsible offers to ALPA.
These took into consideration the state of the company and what was negotiated and agreed to with the other three unions representing Air Malta employees.
“ALPA not only refused every offer but changed the goal posts at every meeting. Each offer addressed issues related to what ALPA claims to be conditions that are inadequate in today’s circumstances,” Air Malta said.
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In a reaction, ALPA said Air Malta has been leasing aircraft on a regular basis for many years.
"Both ALPA and its members have been instrumental in providing leasing opportunities for Air Malta on a number of occasions over the years. ALPA
continues and will continue to support Air Malta’s leasing efforts in the same way that ALPA has facilitated the employment of a number of Air Malta pilots to other airlines in order to reduce significantly the airline’s payroll burden. So as not to disrupt any leasing plans, ALPA has categorically stated that it will continue to honour its existing collective agreement, including those clauses concerning leasing.
"Any suggestion that ALPA is responsible for the sheer incompetence of Air Malta’s higher management in dealing with aircraft leasing is
shocking and dishonest. ALPA remains prepared to operate wet leases immediately, however it appears that the airline is actually unable to accept wet leases because of a lack of flight and cabin crew and as a result of restructuring restrictions by the European Union, which for some reason, to date remain unpublished.
"Air Malta’s management are trying to fool its shareholders and the Maltese public into believing that ALPA is asking for a ridiculous increase in pay. The facts are that ALPA had actually offered to take an increase only after some stability returns to the airline’s finances."
ALPA said that was it was negotiating was 3% pa on the basic wage, in addition to arrears which were still being claimed and a slight increase in the overtime rate or points.
The union said that despite a focused drive by Air Malta’s management to push ALPA into taking industrial action, its members would continue to work according to their contractual obligations and would resist provocation by certain persons in Air Malta’s management as far as possible and until such a time that safety becomes a significant issue.
"The continued mismanagement of Air Malta should be a serious concern for Malta as a whole. It is already clear to those who are involved in the day to day operation of the airline that very little, if any progress has been achieved by the airline’s current management. Except in the area of redundancies which came at a high price. The rebranding Air Malta needs is the sort that sees the replacement of Air Malta’s existing CEO with a fresh brand of airline management," the pilots said.
In its announcement earlier today ALPA said that:
"Certain conditions in the expired collective agreement are inadequate in today's circumstances and therefore, ALPA is insisting that negotiations on a new collective agreement are resumed without any further delay," the union said.
"Until such an agreement is reached between ALPA and Air Malta, pilots have been instructed to continue abiding by their existing agreement."
The union said that no directives to pilots for strike action have been issued and it is not its intention to disrupt flight operations.
"ALPA however warns that crewing limitations in the current agreement are incompatible with certain recently introduced scheduling practices. A shortage of crew at any one time may therefore cause flight delays as has already occurred yesterday evening and may even lead to flight cancellations in the coming weeks."