Senior government and Air Malta officials have expressed surprise at comments by the Prime Minister that the government is expecting good news on the future of the national airline.

Senior Air Malta officials, including members of the board, told The Times of Malta that they were not aware the government was engaged in any form of talks with strategic partners to sell shares in the airline.

Dr Muscat said that talks with several consortia were ongoing and hoped that an agreement would be announced after the election.

“We were very surprised at Dr Muscat’s comments as we are not informed of any ongoing discussions,” said a board member, who preferred not to be named.

“I know that we are in an electoral campaign and Air Malta employees are very worried about their future. This can explain the Prime Minister’s declarations. However, I can assure you that we are not informed of any form of serious talks with potential investors,” he said.

The lack of discussions with potential strategic partners following the failure of year-long negotiations with Alitalia was also confirmed by senior management officials.

We are conscious that the government wants our votes at all costs

“Although we were always kept in the dark over the negotiations held with Alitalia, we knew that negotiations were ongoing as we were always asked to supply data to the chairwoman. We can assure you that no such thing is taking place now.”

Senior Air Malta officials said that following the government’s failure to reach a deal with Alitalia, the government decided not to “rock the boat” until the election was over.

“The problem is what is going to happen after the election. We are currently surviving on a massive loan from BOV. After June 3, hard decisions will be taken and the government will be in the best position to axe jobs with not so many worries about losing votes,” another senior management officer said.

Members of the four unions representing Air Malta workers confirmed they have no details on any possible talks with potential investors.

However, they confirmed that the government was engaging with them on the possible voluntary redundancy schemes to be offered to workers to leave the airline.

“We have held talks with former President George Abela and Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Alfred Camilleri. However, they are only discussing schemes and they told us they were not aware of any other negotiations with potential partners,” a union member involved in the talks said.

“We are aware that the government is trying to keep us engaged to give us the impression that progress is being achieved. However, we are also conscious that the government wants our votes at all costs,” he said.

Air Malta board members also told this newspaper that Francis Cassar – the former financial controller of the Kasco Group appointed to the airline’s board in 2015 – has suddenly resigned.

When contacted, Mr Cassar confirmed his resignation but said this was for personal reasons.

Apart from the Air Malta board, Mr Cassar – the former financial controller of the businesses owned by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff – was also appointed executive chairman of Enemed, the State company which deals in fuel imports and distribution.

Mr Cassar left Kasco in April 2013, a month after Labour was elected to office.

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