air malta

A company set up to take over Air Malta’s ground handling division as part of disgraced minister Konrad Mizzi’s plans to restructure the national airline has never actually had any staff transferred to it, BusinessNow.mt has learned.

Airmalta Aviation Services (AAS) Ltd was set up as a wholly Government-owned company in September 2017, and was intended to hive off Air Malta’s Ground Handling Service Operations, the Ground Equipment Maintenance Section, and Cargo Operations, making up some 400 to 500 workers.

At the time, the Government had come to an agreement with the union representing the workers, the General Workers’ Union, to ensure that staff would have their employment conditions safeguarded.

However, in comments made to BusinessNow.mt, GWU boss Josef Bugeja says that this process was never completed, and these hundreds of workers remain Air Malta employees.

They therefore now find themselves at the mercy of the European Commission as it judges whether the Government’s plan for the airline is in line with EU competition rules.

“We don’t know anything,” says Mr Bugeja, “everything depends on the application.”

However, he reveals that Minister Caruana had made assurances that “no Air Malta staff is going to end up on the street”.

The airline’s plans for future restructuring are dependent on the European Commission’s assessment of the strategic plan for the airline submitted by Government.

In a parliamentary question posed by the Opposition’s spokesperson for tourism Robert Arrigo, Minister for Finance and Employment Clyde Caruana was asked to confirm whether, in light of the discussions ongoing with the European Commission, ground handling would from October be out of Air Malta’s remit, and what would happen to the airline’s ground handling staff in that case.

Minister Caruana was reticent in his reply, saying that the matter would be decided by the national airline in line with its new strategic plan, “with the safeguarding of current employees’ jobs”.

The new strategic plan refers to the plan submitted by the Government to the Commission to see whether a cash injection into the troubled airline would fall within state aid rules, which have been more lenient as a result of the pandemic.

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