The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Updated: Judge turns down pilots’ request to stop dismissal from Air Malta

Saturday, 27 June 2020, 08:10 Last update: about 16 days ago

A court of law has turned down a request by the Airline Pilots Association to stop Air Malta from dismissing 69 pilots.

The court, presided by Mr Justice Toni Abela, accepted the ALPA request for the airline not to demote pilots.

The ruling was given after the airline and the association did not come to an amicable agreement on the dismissal of the pilots.

In a post on Facebook, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said the court had upheld the airline’s arguments against an association which did not want to accept the need to cut down on the number of pilots in the wake of the crisis brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic.

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In a sitting on Friday, Mr Justice Abela heard lawyers Andre Portelli, for ALPA and Ron Galea Cavallazzi for Air Malta exchange arguments, over the injunction, which stopped the airline from terminating or demoting different tranches of pilots.

The company had asked the Airline Pilots Association for “a genuine understanding” of the situation for Air Malta to overcome the financial difficulties brought about by the closure of the airport and the cancellation of many flights.

With the airport set to reopen next week, Air Malta is trying to secure a sustainable operation over the next 12 months as the tourism industry is re-ignited.

In a statement, ALPA said it is satisfied that its request to block the planned demotions has been upheld. The Court has ascertained the existence of an arguable case, as well as a suspected violation of the company’s failure to abide by its legal and contractual obligations. The court "was receptive to arguments relating to the company’s failure" to enter into negotiations in this regard, as well as the fact that the association’s approval had not been granted. On the other hand, whilst reserving judgment as to the legality, or otherwise, of the actions of the company, the court has deemed it appropriate not to stall the company’s intention to proceed with the redundancies contemplated.

Accordingly, ALPA will be filing proceedings in order to obtain adequate relief, as well as to address the above-mentioned irregularities in the imminent future. The executive committee reiterates that, over the past months, the members of the Association have witnessed and have been subjected to systematic attacks on their freedom of association by both Air Malta and by its majority shareholder, the Government of Malta.

Both parties have, over the past months, tried to capitalize on the prevailing circumstances by persistently exerting pressure on the Association to renounce to core rights contained in the Collective Agreement currently in force, notwithstanding that such rights are, in no way, linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Association hereby reaffirms its unwavering intention to do all within its authority to safeguard the prerogatives and interests of its members.

ALPA will also be holding the management of the company to account for the false and incorrect statements forming part of the testimony delivered during yesterday’s sitting, including those members of management who will be formally requested to shoulder responsibility for forging ahead with measures in breach of the legal and contractual rights of the members of the Association.

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