Joseph Muscat warned Air Malta pilots yesterday he will not be held to ransom. They know his plan and he made sure they knew in the way cold war nuclear powers warned each other of assured retaliatory destruction.

Except that Joseph Muscat’s plan is not retaliatory. He got Konrad Mizzi, that rather less artful dodger of handcuffs and veteran of multiple schemes that benefited no one but the ones that would deny it and the ones we would not know of.

I am just asking you to imagine if what was happening at Air Malta now was happening during Lawrence Gonzi’s or Eddie Fenech Adami’s governments.

Firstly, they secretly set up a company directed by Air Malta directors and political cronies and gave it the license of an airline. This first part of the plan demonstrates intent to undermine even the basic notion of collective bargaining and the right of employees to negotiate within the context of industrial relations law. The owner of a business tells its employees they need not bother negotiate the terms of their employment because if they tried the company would be shut down with another identical one prepared in the background to employ the more compliant and exclude the more militant.

Can you picture the solidarity strikes the General Workers’ Union would be calling now? Can you hear the mispronounced cries of Issa Daqshekk?

Secondly, they ignore the union and contact one by one unionised employees whose employment is already covered by a collective agreement. Again the government gleefully ignores its legal obligations as an employer and pits employee against another. If you are not sure of the implications of this go back to one. There’s a new airline being set up that will be open to recruit the pliant and ditch the principled.

Can you imagine the socialist rhetoric bleeding from Labour headquarters if such a thing would even be attempted by a hypothetical Lawrence Gonzi or Eddie Fenech Adami administration?

The irony is not lost on Joseph Muscat himself who yesterday was so pleased with his own cunning plan that he could not help quipping that he would not be weak like his predecessor (Lawrence Gonzi) in the face of Air Malta employee resistance and would not budge for their demands. And yet here he is in 2011 marching alongside Air Malta employees personally showing solidarity with the same pilots in the negotiations he now calls Lawrence Gonzi a wimp for having made concessions in.

Joseph Muscat does that.

He did it on the eve of last year’s elections when from the most visible platform of all he promised Arrow Pharm employees a guaranteed employed future. Here he is at that Labour Party mass event.

But it’s been a bad Christmas for Arrow Pharm employees. The promises “investment from India” would have featured on a bill-board with an Indian football shirt instead of a Brazilian one had Lawrence Gonzi been in government. It was all a lie. Malta Enterpise covered Arrow Pharma employees for a month and by the end of January most of them expect to be redundant and unemployed. Businesses go up and down. That’s the fate of the world.

But the malicious promises of politicians that are never intended to be kept are a gratuitous addition nobody really needs.