All 571 Air Malta staff transfer requests will be accepted - Curmi

Various airline departments, including sales, ticketing and engineering, to experience critical staff shortfall

Air Malta executive chairman David G. Curmi
Air Malta executive chairman David G. Curmi

All Air Malta employees wanting to be transferred onto government’s books as part of the airline’s restructuring process, will have their requests accepted, BusinessToday has learned.

The airline announced this week that by the deadline of 11 February it had received 571 applications from workers as part of government’s voluntary employee transfer scheme, announced last month.

Air Malta executive chairman David G. Curmi told BusinessToday that all 571 workers would be transferred onto the public payroll.

“The company had set no ceiling for the number of applications it would accept,” he said. In January, when the restructuring exercise had been unveiled, Curmi and finance minister Clyde Caruana had said that at least 420 Air Malta employees - out of an eligible 824 - would need to subscribe to the scheme for the plan to be financially viable.

When asked whether this significant reduction in employees will affect the daily operations of the company’s various departments, Curmi said that the restructing plan would be revised accordingly.

“The Voluntary Employee Transfer Scheme which was launched by the Company on 17 January 2022 and which closed on 11 February 2022 is part of a major restructuring plan and will provide the airline with a one-time opportunity to establish a target operating model and a new and leaner organisational structure where a higher proportion of costs become variable through the outsourcing of certain services that were previously in-sourced,” he said.

Air Malta had originally announced target savings of around €15 million per year with a reduction in its staff complement of 420 employees.

This latest development is now expected to net the company more savings.

Critical staff shortfall

Industry sources told BusinessToday that all departments appear to have been hard hit by the transfer requests, except for pilots who were not included in this scheme.

Staff within the revenue management office will drop from five to two, whereas only one employee within the company’s reservations control office looks set to stay.

Also hit is the sales team, with 12 out of 15 staff expected to transfer out.

Only two staff members will be left to operate the airline’s ticket office  at Malta International Airport.

The same sources said that other departments, including engineering, will experience critical shortfalls in staffing levels.

Finance minister Clyde Caruana had said the cost-cutting plan will see the airline ridding itself of ground handling operations, which covered the bulk of the 420 original transfer target.

The restructuring plan also includes a commitment to negotiate new collective agreements that include more worker flexibility to allow the airline to fly between different airports that do not include Malta. These collective agreements have to be concluded by June.

The airline is in dire financial difficulties, made worse during the pandemic. Government sought permission from Brussels to be able to provide State aid, however, it decided to move ahead with cost cutting measures even though the European Commission has yet to pronounce itself.

Government’s cost-cutting plan is independent of the amount of state aid the European Commission will allow.

Restructuring intends to give the airline “a fighting chance” to survive, Caruana had said.

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