Air Malta reaches agreement with cabin crew; talks with pilots still at ‘delicate stage’

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Air Malta has reached an agreement with the Union of Cabin Crew (UCC) which will see all cabin crew members retained with the company, but talks with the union representing pilots are still at a “delicate stage”.

In a press conference on Thursday to announce the agreement, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said that after tough negotiations, the UCC members had taken a decision which will ultimately benefit both them and the company going forward.

The agreement will see cabin crew members maintain the same salary rate, but had agreed to sacrifice a number of hours and be paid only for those hours which they work. This means that all cabin crew members can be retained by the company, including those with a definite contract.

Before an agreement was reached, the airline had been planning to make 139 cabin crew on indefinite contracts redundant, and stop 145 cabin crew on fixed-term contracts.

This change, Schembri said, will help the company so it can operate in a more sustainable manner without making workers redundant.

Schembri said that it is also being agreed that any other agreement made between the union and the government in the past is terminated.

“Therefore, the company will be ridding itself of the chains of the past and will be able to move forward without certain weights holding it back”, Schembri said.

Asked by The Malta Independent what exactly these “chains” were, Schembri said that they included “certain restrictions and guarantees” which existed and which made it difficult for the airline to operate against its competitors.

Air Malta’s Chairman Charles Mangion said that the maturity of the UCC had led to a balance between the future of its members and the company’s sustainability and efficiency.

He said that the fact that agreements from the past which had been in the 2016 collective agreement had been modified, improved, or removed entirely puts his mind at rest.

He said that Air Malta is currently readying plans to be able to fly to other countries soon, noting that these are “agile and flexible” plans which would depend on measures in other countries.

The waiver agreement was signed by Schembri, Mangion, and UCC President Gordon Amato.

Meanwhile, Schembri said that discussions with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) are still ongoing, and again appealed for a compromise to save the jobs of many pilots and them to complement the sacrifices made by cabin crew members are other workers.

“Common sense needs to be at the top of the agenda”, he said.

ALPA is the only union with which Air Malta is yet to reach an agreement with. 108 out of the airline’s 134 pilots were on the course to being made redundant, but this process was put on hold in the hope for an agreement between the two parties.

Fielding questions from journalists, Schembri said that he still cannot give much information about the discussions as they are at a “delicate stage” – repeating what he had told this newsroom two weeks ago.

However, he said that the matter is not a question of “stumbling blocks” but more one where both sides need to be understood in order for a solution which makes sense for everyone to be found.

He said that he expects the sacrifice made by the cabin crew members to be replicated by the pilots, and augured once again for an agreement to be reached.