The Malta Employers’ Association has issued a strongly worded reaction to the severance package offered by the Government to Air Malta workers, describing it as “the most obscene agreement in Malta’s industrial relations history”.
The deal, approved by an overwhelming majority of General Workers Union members on Thursday, would see workers opting to benefit from the early retirement scheme receiving between €40,000 and €300,00 in a tax-free lump sum payment, depending on their position and length of service.
The MEA took umbrage at the news, saying that the 350 administrative workers and ground handlers represented by the union stand to receive a “staggering” €50 million through the deal.
It pointed out that an employee with five years’ experience will be entitled to a lump sum of €80,000, making it €16,000 for every year of service.
“This severance deal is unprecedented and establishes that some animals are indeed more equal than others in Malta. It is nothing more than daylight robbery,” the MEA said.
The body highlighted its prior criticism of the plan to put highly paid Air Malta employees on the public payroll, which it said would violate the principle of equal pay for equal value and aggravate their new colleagues due to the discrepancy between the airline’s wages and those in the public sector.
It also drew attention to the longstanding problem with staffing faced by many local businesses, and said it is “unthinkable” that there have been no efforts to relocate these employees to the private sector, which currently faces a shortage of labour in many industries, leading many companies to engage foreign employees.
The association said that the manner in which the airline has handled its human resources over the years has been “a tragedy of errors”.
“The airline has been overmanned for decades, with many employees being nothing else than political cronies which it could easily have done without. Air Malta could never steer itself towards profitability when it was shackled by unsustainable overheads, employing hundreds of persons for every airplane in its fleet,” it said.
It also called out the secretive nature of the Government’s dealing with the airline’s employees, such as the side letter which guaranteed employees a permanent job with the same take home pay was kept secret, and only came to light when matters reached boiling point.
“What government is doing is squandering taxpayers’ money to resolve a mess of its own making,” the MEA continued. “Offering jobs in the public sector is bad enough, but the details of this severance package are infinitely worse.”
It said that companies and employees “cannot take government’s appeal for tax compliance seriously when it is distributing millions of their taxes to a privileged few, with such handouts amounting to more than an average worker saves in their lifetime. There are thousands of better ways to use such funds then wasting them on golden handshakes. This agreement is morally flawed, and only intended to appease an advantaged class of workers, many of whom should never have been employed at Air Malta in the first place.”
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