Airline operations controllers will be deciding how to proceed now that Air Malta has lost its court bid to stop them from taking industrial action, Times of Malta has learnt.

Sources said the Association of Airline Operations Controllers (AAOC) was due to meet soon to decide on what action to take after a judge threw out the national airline’s request for an injunction.

Members of the AAOC  are distinct from air traffic controllers, whose services are provided by Malta Air Traffic Services. While AAOC members are directly involved with Air Malta operations, air traffic controllers keep a safe and expeditious flow of all air traffic departing, arriving and training from Luqa airfield and all overflying air traffic within the Malta Flight Information Region.

Mr Justice Joseph Micallef has ruled that the air carrier had not satisfied the requisites that were prescribed by law to sustain its application for the court to order the air traffic controllers not to take any industrial action.

Air Malta filed its application at the end of last month, asking the court to stop the air traffic controllers from taking action that could affect its operations. The request was temporarily upheld, as is usually the case, until both parties were heard by the presiding judge. After hearing their submissions, Mr Justice Micallef ruled against the airline.

Lawyer Ian Spiteri Bailey appeared for the airline controllers.

Also unresolved is the issue of a five per cent wage increase

The association registered in industrial dispute with Air Malta over a long-standing issue regarding its recognition as a trade union representing airline operations controllers, who manage the daily airline flights operations according to schedule. They are distinct from air traffic controllers.

The association ordered industrial action last year after Air Malta refused to recognise it as an official union despite it being formally set up in October 2015. It said the director of employment and industrial relations had ordered Air Malta to recognise it as a union in June last year.

The matter is also being considered by the Industrial Tribunal case.

Another issue that also remains unresolved is a claim by the association, made earlier this year, that its 13-odd members were still due a five per cent wage increase, which all other Air Malta employees had received when the airline signed collective agreements with four different trade unions representing all staff members.

The association said the airline was refusing to discuss the matter until the pending union recognition dispute was resolved, forcing it to register an industrial dispute and warn of industrial action. It was at this stage that the airline took the matter to court, arguing that industrial action could have irremediable damage both to Air Malta itself and its operations.

However, Mr Justice Micallef found the airline had not satisfied the criteria for an injunction to be upheld.

While the airline was correct in invoking the right procedures when there was an industrial dispute, the union could not be precluded from moving to safeguard its members.

That was “industrial democracy”, the judge remarked, throwing out the airline’s request for an injunction.

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