The national airline has been forced to extend the deadline for the voluntary employee transfer scheme after the total applications received was nowhere close to the number of workers it wants to shave off its books.

The Air Malta scheme was meant to close on Friday but employees received an email from the airline’s human resources department informing them the deadline had been extended to February 11. They were not given a reason.

Sources said the company was not happy with the number of applications it received from employees who were willing to take up the offer of a job in the public sector.

Earlier this month, the government announced plans for Air Malta to take to the skies with a much lighter staff load by summer when the workforce will be slashed from 890 to 420-430.

The move is intended to save the airline €15 million a year.

The airline was aiming to see around 110-120 transferred out of the company to other government sectors.

Devil is in the detail

The sources said the likely reason for the low take-up could be attributed to the lack of clarity the employees had about their future as well as the “grey areas” related to their salaries and working conditions which the government was insisted were being guaranteed.

“What is being guaranteed exactly? Workers do not have information on basic issues, such as their salaries and conditions at their new job,” one source close to the company told Times of Malta.

“So, it stands to reason that they cannot be expected to sign up for something about which they know very little.”

An Air Malta employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the job offer was “appealing” but felt that not enough information had been given for workers to make “an informed choice”.

“This is my livelihood and that of my children we’re talking about. I cannot take a leap of faith and hope for the best,” he said.

“If I take this offer, I need to know what’s in it for me and then need to see what’s the best option,” he added.

The sources said the government was involved in intensive talks with unions representing Air Malta’s different section of employees over the past week in an attempt to reach individual deals.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry said that agreements had been reached with all unions, except the General Workers’ Union, which has not yet given its final approval.

GWU head Josef Bugeja told Times of Malta earlier this month the union had been reassured that Air Malta’s workers’ salaries and their respective conditions would not be affected in any way with the transfer.   

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