Air Malta pilots made redundant last year are now being put on the government payroll and assigned jobs that have nothing to do with their experience and skills, The Shift can exclusively reveal.
Last June, in an effort to save the national airline, 69 pilots were sacked. Yet the pilots were protected by a side agreement signed in 2018 when disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi was at the helm and Robert Abela, now prime minister, was acting as the government’s lawyer on the deal.
Through this secret deal signed with the pilots union ALPA, which guaranteed jobs for the pilots, those sacked are now being given new work contracts by Engineering Resources Ltd – a government agency – which until a few weeks ago was headed by Lawrence Mizzi – the father of Konrad Mizzi.
The recruitment of these pilots is expected to cost taxpayers millions per year, as the new government employees are to receive the same pay package they enjoyed when flying Air Malta planes – an average of €100,000 a year.
Meanwhile, Air Malta, which is striving to avoid financial collapse and will need hundreds of millions in State Aid if it is to survive, has reduced its payroll by more than €6 million annually, thanks to the sacking of the 69 pilots last June.
The Shift has confirmed that before the pilots were fired the government informed them that Konrad Mizzi’s commitment will be honoured, signed without Cabinet approval, by offering them alternative jobs within the public sector.
While The Shift is informed that most of the pilots have accepted the offer, it is not yet known how many have been recruited for these new government jobs so far. Most former pilots have been assigned to various departments and agencies, mostly at Transport Malta and Enemed (two State agencies), while others preferred not to take up the offer.
The government has not informed the public of this move. Energy Minister Miriam Dalli, currently responsible for Engineering Resources Ltd, did not reply to questions.
The Shift is informed that some of the recruitment contracts were signed by Lawrence Mizzi as chairman of Engineering Resources Ltd.
A deal by Robert Abela and Konrad Mizzi
In 2018, when Konrad Mizzi was responsible for Air Malta, the government was trying to negotiate a new collective agreement with ALPA.
Forcing pilots to accept the airline’s demands, including fewer perks and more flying hours, Konrad Mizzi offered the union a side letter, without public knowledge, through which he gave all Air Malta pilots the guarantee of a job with the same salary conditions in the event that they were no longer needed by the airline.
This agreement, drafted by Prime Minister Robert Abela who was serving as a legal consultant to Air Malta and Minister Mizzi at the time, was immediately accepted by the pilots and a new five-year collective agreement was signed. The same assurances were never given to any other category of workers at the airline.
Mizzi and Abela’s guarantee states that: “The parties agree that through this agreement the government is granting a job guarantee in Malta and a take-home pay to pilots, according to the collective agreement being signed today”.
“This job guarantee is being given until the date of the signing of a new collective agreement.”
Air Malta and ALPA’s current collective agreement runs until the end of 2023.