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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case MT-2020-22/1032 – measures in Malta

Collective agreement: Air Malta cabin crew

Country Malta , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 28 May 2020
Type Bipartite collective agreements
Category Employment protection and retention
– Wage flexibility
Author Luke Anthony Fiorini (University of Malta) and Eurofound
Case created 07 August 2020 (updated 10 August 2020)

Background information

The COVID-19 pandemic hit airlines hard, with Air Malta no exception. The relevant Minister stated that whereas Air Malta would usually have 10 airplanes in the air, no more than one was now flying. Air Malta therefore initiated discussions with relevant Unions to save the airline and the workers. Discussions were initiated with unions representing ground handlers, cabin crew and the pilots (each group has its own union). New agreements were concluded with the former two groups, resulting in no jobs being lost. A new agreement, however, was not reached with the pilot's union, ALPA, resulting in sizeable redundancies.

Content of measure

Following discussions between the government, Air Malta and the Cabin Crew Union, it was agreed that threatened redundancies would not take place. Initially, Air Malta had stated that in view of the pandemic, it had aimed to make 139 cabin crew on indefinite contracts redundant, and fail to renew 145 cabin crew on fixed-term contracts. Air Malta employs 333 Cabin Crew. Of these, 188 are on an indefinite term contract, while 145 are on a fixed term contract

In order to save the aforementioned workers, it was agreed to cancel all prior agreements between the cabin crew and the airline held in the 2016 collective agreement. Key to the new agreement signed was that cabin crew agreed to forfeit a guaranteed minimum take-home pay that they previously had a right to, with cabin crew now agreeing to being paid for the number of hours that they worked. Furthermore, it was agreed that whilst crew on indefinite contracts would be allocated with a number of hours of work during the week, those on a definite contract would only be called in (and thus paid) once demand increases.

Use of measure

To date, the measure saved 139 cabin crew on indefinite contracts from redundancy, whilst 145 cabin crew on fixed-term contracts were provided with new contracts.

Contents

  • Employment retention
  • Pay freezes or cuts

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Particular professions
Other businesses
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Trade unions
Company / Companies
Employer
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Negotiated No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Only trade unions
  • Main level of involvement: Company level

Involvement

As COVID-19 struck and Air Malta was practically grounded, the organisation called the unions representing its workers (including engineers, cabin crew and pilots) to either accept a much reduced minimum salary of €1,200 monthly, including if they were not required to operate, with employees able to earn more if work was performed as per their collective agreement, or to face redundancy. Whilst the engineer's union (following a vote by their members, of which 90% voted in favour) accepted the offer, the cabin crews' and pilots' unions rejected the offer. Several discussions took place between the unions and the airline with no new offer being agreed. On the 8 April 2020, Air Malta therefore decided to initiate redundancy procedures against a large percentage of cabin crew and pilots.

In terms of the cabin crew, in-fighting occurred with those on definite contracts, who were generally remunerated less than those with indefinite contracts, pushing for the agreement to be accepted. This resulted in cabin crew workers on definite contracts taking legal action against the union for not accepting the proposal, which would otherwise have resulted in all workers on a definite contract being made redundant.

Despite the Airline initiating redundancy procedures, talks continued between the unions and the airline, and on the 27 May 2020 it was announced that an agreement had been concluded between the airline and cabin crew union, resulting in all jobs being saved. This new agreement was put to a vote of Cabin Crew Union members; of 299 members eligible to vote, 252 voted; 161 members voted in favour of the proposals, whilst 90 voted against.

Views and reactions

Government and the Airline publicly supported the agreement stating that it had resulted in all cabin crew jobs being saved, whilst also unshackling Air Malta from a previously restrictive collective agreement. It was stated that the new agreement allowed the airline to be more dynamic and have a competitive advantage.

The Cabin Crew Union did not release any public statement on their views of the agreement.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      H - Transportation And Storage H51 Air transport
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Hospitality, retail and other services managers

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Collective agreement: Air Malta cabin crew, case MT-2020-22/1032 (measures in Malta), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.