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Malta flag carrier set to fire 80 PERCENT of pilots after talks fail amid coronavirus crisis

Malta flag carrier set to fire 80 PERCENT of pilots after talks fail amid coronavirus crisis
As the deadly coronavirus wreaks havoc on the aviation sector, Air Malta could leave 108 of its 134 pilots out of work after it failed to find common ground on salary compensations with the pilots’ union.

The major Maltese airline had to ground its fleet in March just like most airlines in the world due to border closures amid the coronavirus outbreak. Struggling to keep up with the fallout of the crisis which could result in over €130 million (US$ 141 million) in damages for the company by the start of the summer season, Air Malta offered this month to grant pilots a minimum income of €1,200 ($1,300) monthly even if they are forced to stay at home in a move to keep all the staff on the books.

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However, the compensation can hardly be compared to an average salary, prompting local unions representing pilots to turn the offer down. The association also criticized Air Malta of what appears to be unfair treatment, saying that other employees had to give up much less of their salary than pilots had been asked to. According to local media, first officers earn up to €80,00 ($87,000), while captains’ salaries range from €90,000 to €140,000. 

As the row has been intensifying, and even drew anger from the European Cockpit Association, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri accused the local union of attempting to “hijack” Air Malta over the refusal to come to terms, adding that the company has other staff to take care of. 

Despite some employees already wanting to accept what was offered, now the carrier has decided to take the option off the table, and starting Tuesday it plans to keep just 26 pilots, while others will be let go without any compensation, local media reports. The decision was initially meant to be effective in May, but the company said it had been left with no choice.

“ALPA has been given various opportunities to accept the company's offer, all of which were turned down, therefore resulting in the company being forced to cut down on flight crew to a level commensurate with the current operations, which will be sustained for an indeterminable period,” a spokesman for Air Malta said on Saturday, as cited by the Times of Malta.

The Covid-19 crisis has hit the global aviation industry hard, forcing companies to slash flying capacity and struggling to keep afloat. While some air carriers in the US are expecting to use government financial assistance to keep their workforce, others had to initiate massive layoffs that amount to 90 percent of staff in some cases.

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