The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Updated: ALPA files reply to court injunction; says pilots not trying to damage Air Malta

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 21 July 2016, 07:10 Last update: about 5 years ago

The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) today have filed their replies to the court injunction, which aims to stop them from holding further industrial action.

Air Malta filed the court injunction against ALPA in an attempt to stop the industrial action being threatened which could potentially affect negotiations with Alitalia. The injunction was provisionally upheld. The case is to be heard Friday before Mr Justice Silvio Meli.

Money is not the primary concern of Air Malta pilots in the collective agreement discussions, Lawyer Edward Gatt said today right after the reply was filed. He explained that redundancy issues are the main worry of the association. He also spoke of the reduction in times that the pilots are currently flying, adding that such issues need to be clarified. "We want these issues addressed now"

Speaking at a short press conference after submitting their replies, Dr Gatt said that the pilots’ fundamental right, that of forming part of a union, was being attacked.

“It is dangerous to try and curtail this right” he said.

President of ALPA Dominic Azzopardi said that pilots always conducted themselves professionally, adding that they have Air Malta’s best interests at heart. He said that they were not seeking to damage the airline. He said that Air Malta do not exclude redundancies. "They asked us how many pilots are ready to work abroad. That means they are already telling us that we are too many".

In a statement later in the day, ALPA argued that many entities such as FORUM, the European Cockpit Association and the Head of the Faculty of Law Kevin Aquilina already expressed their reservations on the injunction.

Through their reply to the injunction, the statement read, ALPA made it clear that it will not remain silent on this threat to democracy. "The reply also shows that Air Malta pilots are responsible employees, and that any industrial action that will be taken will be done so with respect to the sustainability of the company".

It read that pilots are hurt that Air Malta has tried to paint them in a bad light, as though they are workers who only want to work 50 hours a month. "This is absolutely not true," it read. “Pilots want to work, and if they are not working enough that is purely because of other decisions taken by Air Malta, such as the reduction in the fleet”.

Pilots, the statement read, “are preoccupied with the negative and destructive attitude by Air Malta, especially after many years of bad decision taking on their part”.

Air Malta, the statement read, has not even proposed new dates for discussions to continue. “It is a fundamental right for a pilot to form part of an association in order for collective bargaining to occur, and that it can lead to industrial action”.

ALPA-Malta previously argued that a new collective agreement is long overdue, with the last one having expired last December. But the airline, currently going through a restructuring process and in negotiations for a partial take-over by Alitalia, argues that this is not the right time.

Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis previously insisted that he will do everything in his power to ensure that the national airline is safeguarded. “This warrant is as much a legal action as it is a symbolic one. We need to give a signal that we will defend Air Malta in every possible way, both from a legal perspective and a commercial one, and this warrant is the last action which we can take to exhaust all legal positions that we have at our disposition,” Zammit Lewis had said.

The Association explained that the injunction filed by Air Malta in the Maltese courts to ask for the issue of a prohibitory injunction against ALPA “constitutes a clear threat to the right of free association of workers, as well as to their entitlement to safeguard as a last option these rights by resorting to industrial action. A right which is upheld not only by the Maltese Laws but also by International Law and whereby workers’ interests are protected and deemed unalienable.”

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