New union threatens to ground Air Malta flights if not recognised

The Association of Airline Operations Controllers has threatened to take industrial action unless Air Malta and the GWU recognise it as a representative of the airline’s Airline Operations Controllers.

The AAOC’s lawyer, Ian Spiteri Bailey, explained that the association, which was formed over two years ago, represents a group of around 20 Air Malta employees who coordinate the various aspects relating to the administration of the airline’s flights from the moment a flight lands in Malta to when it leaves, from the ground crew down to the people who attach the passenger stairs to the aircraft.

“Airline Operations Controllers coordinate flights from beginning to end,” the lawyer said in comments to MaltaToday. “They deal with anything which has to do with the flight, except the cabin crew…they’re as important as the pilot.”

The GWU had argued that the workers were members of that union and represented by it but in proceedings before the Industrial Tribunal, an Air Malta representative had confirmed that the members of the AAOC were not represented by the GWU. The Tribunal had upheld the GWU’s argument and ordered the parties to submit to conciliation proceedings at the Director of Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER).

In a judicial protest filed this morning, the AAOC said that it was not interested in participating in conciliation meetings and called on Air Malta, DIER and the General Workers Union to begin the process under Legal Notice 413 of 2016, which regulates the recognition of trade unions.

“The Director has so far failed to do so with the weak, illogical and illicit excuse that under those same regulations, the verification process could only be started after the request for recognition, made to the principal, is copied to the Director,” the protest reads.

The court document calls on Air Malta to recognise the union without delay, saying it should be aware that the workers are not protected by any collective agreements with the GWU, also calling on the GWU to stop “persisting in a position that it knows is no longer tenable, out of useless pique,” as well as calling on the Director of Industrial and Employment Relations to begin verification proceedings.

The AAOC said it reserved the right to “take the necessary legal and industrial steps to protect its interests and the interests of its members,” if this did not happen.

The lawyer said that, to its credit, Air Malta immediately entered into discussions with the GWU. “But then once we threatened to take action, they referred the dispute to the minister concerned who referred it to the Industrial Tribunal”.

Once the Tribunal’s decision, which the union is saying was only intended to satisfy the GWU,  was issued, Air Malta took steps immediately and started the conciliation process.

“If Air Malta knows the majority of the workers are members of the AAOC and had testified to this effect in the Industrial Tribunal, then why not recognise them?” Spiteri Bailey asked. The lawyer said the airline was not doing so because of pressure from the GWU and hence the judicial protest.

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