The Malta Independent 20 September 2019, Friday

Updated (2): Court upholds Air Malta request to stop pilots from taking industrial action

Tuesday, 23 July 2019, 15:01 Last update: about 3 months ago

A court upheld a request by national airline Air Malta to prohibit its pilots from taking industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions of work.

The airline pilots association, ALPA, had said that the industrial action, which would have seen flights delayed by 30 minutes, had been called in the interest of both the company and the union because it was clear that talks between the two parties could not proceed with the participation of the Emvic Debono, the airline’s Chief Flight Operations Officer.

In a decision handed down by Mr. Justice Toni Abela, the court said that it was only required to find whether the rights of the company had a right which deserved to be protected at a prima facie level and whether the elements required for the injunction existed.
Abela said that after examining the evidence in detail, Air Malta had managed to prove at the required level that this was indeed the case.

Without going into detail, the court ruled that the injunction, which had been provisionally upheld upon its presentation, was to stand and that ALPA be prohibited from taking industrial action.

The decision was welcomed by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, who tweeted that the "abuse of the right to strike had been curtailed."

The dispute between the pilots and the airline had led to the union ordering industrial action, which saw pilots reporting for work half an hour late causing disruption to the airline's schedule.

Air Malta then filed for a court injunction. ALPA had then declared that, pursuant to the filing of an application by Air Malta p.l.c for the issue of a warrant of prohibitory injunction, which was thereafter acceded to by the Courts of Justice on a provisional basis, that the Association had temporarily withdrawn industrial action until a ruling is delivered in relation to the merits thereof in order to let justice take its course. That ruling was delivered yesterday.

It was unclear what the main issue was as Air Malta claims that the action was a consequence of the Government of Malta, Air Malta’s major shareholder, declining the request to guarantee the pilots’ early retirement scheme pay-out even if the airline fails, which sees individual pilots getting some €700,000 each at age 55.

On the other hand, ALPA claimed that Air Malta seems intent on distorting indisputable facts, as well as painting a false and unclear picture of the prevalent and current state of affairs. ALPA had said it has had to resort to industrial action in response to the management's numerous attempts to deploy crew illegally against the stipulated procedures, as well as in response to the company’s persistent failure to address concerns relating to the safety and well-being of its members.

Since the court case was launched, there had been no meetings on the issues relating to the court case between the two sides.

Ever since the signing of the collective agreement early last year, Air Malta has been in long and tough discussions with ALPA over interpretations of this agreement and other issues, the airline said. The airline previously said it has tried to find solutions to each and every issue raised, however ALPA continually failed “to show the goodwill necessary to ensure harmonious industrial relations”.

Sources however said that pilots had put aside a number of issues prior to discussions breaking down, including talks on the more than 500 off and leave days which pilots were not given last year.

Sources within the airline industry said that the main cause of concern for the pilots was the airline’s attempts to deploy crew illegally, failure to address concerns, and that pilots are concerned over the future of the airline. This is why, sources said, the pilots want the guarantee regarding the early retirement scheme.

  • don't miss