Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has confirmed The Shift’s revelations about the latest manoeuvres at Air Malta and has admitted that some 600 staff employed by the national airline will be dumped onto the taxpayer’s payroll at an additional cost of some €15 million a year.
Following a series of questions from PN transport spokesman Ryan Callus, Caruana told parliament that a total of 577 employees have applied for the generous Voluntary Employment Transfer Scheme (VETS), announced by the government in January, as part of the latest restructuring exercise at the bankrupt national airline.
Caruana also confirmed The Shift’s reports that although in 2017 the government announced that all Air Malta’s ground handling employees were to be transferred to a new government company – Air Malta Aviation Services – this has not happened, though the reason the plan wasn’t carried out has never been explained.
Instead, though the new company never operated, it still recruited an additional 23 employees from outside Air Malta. It is as yet unclear whether these additional employees were also put on the government payroll through the VETS scheme offered to Air Malta employees. Most of them were given their jobs through the intervention of Labour politicians, particularly through the ministry of disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Replying to other questions by Callus, Minister Caruana admitted that so far, only 88 employees of those who applied for the VETS scheme were effectively moved to other government departments and authorities, including Labour propogandist Karl Stagno Navarra who was taken on by Air Malta on a three-year definite contract. The latter was rarely seen at his place of work.
The minister refused to give details about where these employees have been placed, nor about the salary structure they have been given.
The Shift has been told that while these employees were given jobs at levels that match other government grades, they are receiving much higher salaries than their colleagues, because their basic pay was pegged to what they earned at Air Malta, including all their overtime and allowances. This has led to a raft of new discrimination claims among senior government employees.
Caruana also confirmed that Air Malta will be using “another company” for its ground handling requirements but refused to confirm whether the beleaguered airline will be forming a new company.
The Shift has previously reported that Air Malta is setting up a new ground handling company with Italian partners to take over the work of its own ground handling operations. None of the current Air Malta employees will work for the new company and instead the new venture will be importing foreign labour.
Air Malta is still awaiting state aid approval by the European Commission and is registering millions of euros in losses every month. If the company doesn’t get the EU Commission’s permission to receive state aid, it will have to fold.