It is being bandied about that discussions are underway between the government and Air Malta pilots. They are the ones who, if chosen, will be flying the same planes and most of the same routes under the new “KM” brand when their old employer winds down early next year.
Pilots who have been flying Air Malta planes for 25 years are expecting to receive a €1 million each before signing up for an employment contract with the new airline. Twenty years of service will see a reward of €750,000 paid by the government, the shareholder of the airline company that is being wound down by the same shareholder because of its insolvency.
The pilots will not be automatically engaged by the new company. They are invited to apply and go through an interview process with the new airline. Applications are due to close in just over 10 days and there’s not much clarity about how they will be selected.
Industry sources say that apart from the cockpits, head office at Air Malta is not expecting to change much after the transition, apart from the slightly different logo of the business they are transitioning to.
Among the local senior managers expecting to be retained is Tyrone Galea an 18-year veteran of Air Malta. Though he still works for the old company he’s seen here receiving the new airline’s license from Robert Risso, himself a 35-year veteran who retired from Air Malta and is now working for Transport Malta regulating his former employer and its successor company.
The government is so far providing very scant information about the transfer of business from the old national airline to the new one. It seems however that not much more than the brand name is changing. Planes, pilots, and senior managers are transitioning relatively seamlessly. There’s little clarity on the fate of other employees, discussed earlier in this Guest Post by employment law expert Andrew Borg Cardona.
Secrecy may be convenient for the government. They want the transition to look like a clean break between old Air Malta and new rebranded Air Malta. They want it to look like a clean break. But they don’t want it to feel like one.
If it looks like Air Malta 2 is just Air Malta 1 after a night at the spa, they’d risk the European Commission intervening and blocking the whole thing because it breaks state aid rules.
Consider those millions going to the pilots who will work for one airline one day and another airline the next. Will the European Commission consider the job application and recruitment process by the new airline a ritual farce? Will it consider the pay-out by the government as an illegal subsidy in the form of a sweetener to shut the pilots up? For that matter, are the same sort of sweeteners going to be dangled in front of the rest of the workforce to shut them up too? Or have they already been dangled, given the deathly silence from the relevant unions?
Consider the transition of senior managers from the old airline to the new? Will the European Commission investigate whether the managers worked in the interest of the new company while still on the payroll of the old one? Will the Commission care?
The government may wish to consider being transparent about this. Don’t keep your hopes up.