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Government ‘bypasses’ union and contacts pilots individually

'He is trying to divide us' - Air Malta pilots

Alpa says Air Malta pilots would now be called to discuss and vote whether to accept or reject the government’s offer.

Alpa says Air Malta pilots would now be called to discuss and vote whether to accept or reject the government’s offer.

The government made a last-ditch attempt to encourage Air Malta cockpit crew to agree to a new five-year collective agreement by contacting pilots individually, bypassing their union, the Times of Malta was told.

In a move many pilots deemed “unethical”, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi on Tuesday sent a personalised letter to every Air Malta cockpit crew member telling them how they would benefit individually from the proposed new agreement, civil aviation industry sources said.

“The minister’s letter is a direct indication that he intends to divide and rule. Instead of negotiating with our union, he is trying to divide us. I think his tactics won’t work,” a senior Air Malta captain told this newspaper.

Read: Air Malta losses surge from €4m to €13m

A spokesman for Alpa, the pilots’ union, confirmed the minister chose to go directly to pilots individually instead of holding further talks with the union.

The pilots, he added, would now be called to discuss and vote whether to accept or reject the offer, stressing that Alpa is still not satisfied with what the government is offering.

The sources said that, in his individual proposals, which pilots who spoke to this newspaper said were “riddled with mistakes”, the government was striving to give the impression pilots would be getting a wage increase.

“In reality, there are no increases, since pilots will have to work much more to earn what the minister is saying,” a first officer said.

So far, the government is refusing to give any details of the airline’s offer.

An attempt to break the deadlock with pilots a few weeks ago was scrapped following objections by the Finance Ministry. Tourism Ministry officials sought approval to offer pilots tax-free status on part of their salaries on the grounds that they would be ‘working’ in international territory. However, the Finance Ministry pointed out that what was proposed would be illegal.

Alpa was harshly criticised during the signing of a new collective agreement for Air Malta staff with the GWU on Tuesday.

Read: Air Malta inches closer to staff deal

Dr Mizzi said the government would not be making further offers to pilots, insisting the company had reached its limits, and President Emeritus George Abela, who was entrusted by the government to conduct the negotiations, indicated that pilots had asked for much more than they got.

“I will not say what they originally asked for as long as they agree,” he said.

Air Malta is trying to get its house in order after years of heavy losses. According to government plans, it had to break even in March 2017 but instead ended with a loss of €13 million.

Dr Mizzi, who assumed political responsibility for Air Malta after the June election, says it will break even by next March.

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