Air Malta is facing industrial action from the Association of Airline Operations Controllers because the union is not recognised by the national carrier, Air Malta said in a statement last night.
Air Malta said that yesterday afternoon a meeting was held with the union in the presence of representatives of the Tourism Ministry, during which the matter was discussed.
The airline said that since here is another union that sustains it enjoys the backing of the workforce involved, the situation should be resolved by the Industrial Tribunal. But the AAOC is demanding immediate recognition.
The industrial action announced by the union could stop the company’s operations and could have a detrimental effect on the tourism industry, the airline said.
This action is “irresponsible and illegal”, it added, and the company will hold the union responsible for any damages.
In an explanatory letter send to the media by the AAOC’s legal representative, Ian Spiteri Bailey, the union said it is requesting recognition from the airline. It was set up on 5 October 2015 and has been requesting recognition since.
This delay led to the registering of an industrial dispute twice but no industrial action was taken, the union said.
The Director of Industrial Relations and Employment had concluded that the AAOC should be granted recognition but the airline has not accepted. This led the AAOC to register another dispute and action was, this time, taken.
The General Workers Union is insisting that it still represents these workers and, in Air Malta’s words, is threatening to take action. It is clear, the AAOC said, that because of the “unjust and illicit threat” by the GWU, Air Malta is refusing to honour the decision taken by the Director of Industrial Relations and Employment.
The AAOC said it is registered by law and rejects the accusation that its action is “extreme, illegal and irresponsible”. It is unacceptable that such adjectives are used when a union exercises its rights.
The union said it is open to solutions.
MHRA calls upon AAOC to stop shooting themselves in the foot
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), in reaction to the notice of industrial action issued to Air Malta by the Association of Airline Operations Controllers (AAOC), lambasted any potential damage to the tourism sector and specifically to Air Malta as irresponsible and destructive.
The MHRA stated that while it recognises the right for employees for representation, it has remarked that issues must be addressed through dialogue and never by putting the employer at ransom, especially when in this case the victims of such action would be the wider economy itself. MHRA said that the economic success that has been achieved to date through the contribution of the tourism sector has reached up to record levels, not by coincidence, but rather through the concerted efforts of all stakeholders over the past years. Specifically referring to the issue involving AAOC, MHRA states that nothing justifies grounding AirMalta aircrafts, especially when in the referred case there are clear rules and directives governing such matters.
MHRA also states that we can never achieve the desired economic growth and furthermore saving our national airline if a small group of individuals within the organisation deem that it is right to disrupt and drastically harm our economy.
Tony Zahra, MHRA President says, “The days of such militant and short-sighted actions which cause great harm and disruption to the economy are long gone and should be resisted by the authorities at all costs. No one is indispensable and should in the face of challenges always opt for a solution through dialogue and respect.” MHRA asserts that in this issue it will be consistent and will support the relevant authorities, including Government and AirMalta in safeguarding the national interest. MHRA calls upon AAOC to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
Malta Employers’ Association backs Air Malta
The Malta Employers’ Association condemned the industrial action ordered by the Association of Airline Operations Controllers, and stated that the action goes against the provisions of Legal Notice 413 of 2016 on recognition of Trade Unions. The legal notice states that:
‘Once a union is recognized as the sole collective bargaining union, no other union may intervene on a collective matter relating to the employees concerned with the employer, and conversely, no employer shall discuss collective matters relating to the employees’ concerned with a union other than the recognized union’.
MEA said it is strongly of the opinion that the management of Air Malta should not be coerced to take back a legitimate recognition grated to GWU and give it instead to the AAOC. The Association added that it disagreed with the Director of Employment and Industrial Relations’ decision to give recognition to the AAOC, and that this case can set a dangerous precedent for other companies as it is inconceivable that union representation within a company can become fragmented in a manner that can make a place of work unmanageable. This decision risks putting Air Malta in a gratuitous simultaneous confrontation with two unions.
The fact that the AAOC has the majority of employees in a department does not give it an automatic right to negotiate a collective agreement on their behalf. Union recognition should be based on a totality of company employees unless agreed between management and unions to consider categories. The legislation makes no mention that an employer is obliged to recognise collective bargaining units within a company.