Air Malta pilots have warned the national carrier to expect industrial action from next week if the government fails to start discussions with them over their collective agreement, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed.

The overwhelming majority of members of the pilots’ union agreed in a secret vote to call industrial action if no headway is made with the airline’s shareholder, sources said.

“The pilots have a number of pending issues with the management and the government – as the airline’s shareholder – as many feel the conditions of the collective agreement are not being respected,” a senior pilot said.

The pending items include working schedules, the lack of pilots amid an increase in flights during the summer schedule and vacation leave issues.

However, other sources said that while it was collective agreement issues that were mainly sparking the threat of action, the straw which broke the camel’s back was the government’s recent agreement with Ryanair to set up a new airline.

Ryanair is set to open a Malta-based subsidiary that will start operating with six aircraft under the brand name Malta Air.

“Malta Air is a direct hit at Air Malta and it is clear that the government has unwritten plans for Air Malta,” a senior Air Malta official said.

“This is obviously making pilots and other employees very tense, they want guarantees from Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister,” the source said.

Last week, Times of Malta reported growing tension among the unions representing Air Malta employees following the Ryanair announcement.

The other airline unions, including the General Workers’ Union, which represents the majority of workers, has kept silent over the deal despite mounting internal frustrations.

Union members are pressing their representatives to ask the government for “written guarantees” on their future in case Air Malta folds up.

The government is insisting that despite their green light to strengthen Ryanair’s presence in Malta, the new airline will not compete head-on with Air Malta.

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