Last Updated on Thursday, 13 October, 2022 at 10:00 am by Andre Camilleri
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has shot down calls for the secondment of Air Malta employees to the private sector.
Air Malta has been facing financial troubles and is undergoing a restructuring. The government had announced a voluntary employee transfer scheme, for employees – excluding pilots – to move to the public sector, in a bid to half the airline’s workforce. It had also introduced an early retirement scheme.
There were calls from the Malta Chamber of Commerce for workers to be considered for secondment to the private sector, however the finance minister has shot this idea down.
“It doesn’t make sense for people, those who are going to be shifted, to be seconded elsewhere, as there are state aid issues. It cannot be that government pays someone’s wage, but that person would deliver a service to the private sector. It doesn’t work out that way,” he said.
Pressed about the government’s decision to offer the possibility for Air Malta workers to transition into the public sector, he said that the only other option would have been to make them redundant.
“Whoever thinks that making employees redundant wouldn’t have caused mayhem at the airline… that would have been wishful thinking.”
“Let’s for a second imagine that I would have sacked all those employees. The first thing they would have done would have been to file an injunction. They would have grounded the aircraft with all the repercussions on the economy. It’s true, there’s a cost to all this. I’m fully cognizant of that. The cost is significant. But the cost in relation to what would have happened if there was some form of industrial unrest or dispute, with all its consequences… that cost would have been much higher.”
Responding to further questions about the airline, the minister said that he has discussed, with pilots and cabin crew, the liquidation of their early retirement schemes. “It cannot be that the airline keeps paying people who are not providing a service to the airline, for ten years.”
“The situation is such that those early retirement schemes allow either pilots or the cabin crew to retire at 54-55 years of age, and still keep receiving two-thirds of their wage until retirement. It doesn’t make any business sense.”
“I want to liquidate those rights. Those rights cannot be in any form of collective agreement or working conditions moving forward.” He said that it will cost a great deal of money since they are part of the contracts.
Discussions are still ongoing, he said, but added that the cost will run into a couple of tens of millions.