The General Workers Union has been preparing for the possibility of Air Malta slashing its workforce "for years", union head Josef Bugeja told Times of Malta.

On Friday, the finance minister said the national airline’s 890-strong workforce will be cut to 420, with workers offered alternative jobs with the government.

Most of these workers - around 300 - handle ground operations and benefit from the GWU’s protection, a union that has historically been quite vocal about the conditions of the airline’s workforce.

The rest include people working mainly in administration, and IT and marketing services among others, some of whom are also GWU members.

The GWU made no public statement following Friday's announcement. 

What the GWU said

Contacted on Saturday, Bugeja told Times of Malta the government had been keeping the union updated over the past months about its discussions with the European Commission over a state aid application for the national airline.

On Friday, the GWU briefed shop stewards about the job cuts announcement, and by this Wednesday it will be submitting its members’ requests for clarifications to the government.

The GWU will then meet with government or Air Malta representatives by the following Monday to discuss technicalities, such as where its members are being transferred to, and what their new role would entail.

“We have been building up for such an eventuality for some years now," Bugeja said.

"Among others, in an agreement we signed for ground handling staff in 2017 we had included a clause ensuring employment within the public sector if the Air Malta Aviation Services is dissolved,” he said, adding that the union was reassured that its members’ livelihoods were being safeguarded and their current salary guaranteed.

The Malta Chamber has in the meantime recommended that workers shed from Air Malta's books be considered for secondment to the private sector, given the acute shortages of human resources in the country.

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