Air Malta works council holds first meeting

A works council started operations at Air Malta, the national airline, in January 2005. It was created as a result of a rescue plan agreed in May 2004, and is the first body of its kind to be established in a Maltese company.

Air Malta underwent a major restructuring exercise in 2004 (MT0405102F), with a collective agreement on a 'rescue plan' signed by management and workers’ representatives in May (MT0407101N). This agreement provided for the setting up of a works council to help ensure that the national airline’s targets are reached and to enhance the dialogue between unions and management. The first meeting of this works council was held on 27 January 2005.

The works council consists of representatives of Air Malta’s management and a 'central representative council' (CRC), which incorporates the workers’ representatives. The various categories of workers at Air Malta have been divided into six colleges who elect or nominate their representatives to the CRC. The CRC is composed of four representatives from the General Workers’ Union (GWU), one representative each form of the Union of Cabin Crew (UCC), the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), and the Association of Airline Engineers (AEE), and a representative of staff at outstations.

Air Malta does not fall under the scope of the EU Directive on European Works Councils (MT0409103F), due to its relatively small size and the limited geographic distribution of its workers. However, it decided to set up a works council in order to increase the communication between the management and the workers. Speaking during the first meeting, Air Malta’s chair highlighted the fact that the works council, which is seen as being in line with EU policies, is the first of its kind in Malta.

Air Malta’s chair emphasised that the works council would not serve as a forum for discussing matters subject to collective agreements (such as wages and conditions of employment) or individual grievances. Such matters will remain the domain of the company's existing industrial relations system. The chair emphasised the importance of having the highest level of transparency and constructive dialogue about existing and future policies, strategies, budgets and business plans. As this is a new experience for Air Malta, the exact parameters of both the content and process of discussions will be established as meetings progress. However, apart from serving as a tool for the management to share information with unions, the works council also intends to provide space for representatives to put forward their proposals, which might also take the form of open discussions. The chair emphasised the importance of confidentiality regarding the proceedings of the works council’s discussions.

Air Malta has committed itself to provide training to the representatives on the council in order to facilitate the interaction between the CRC and the management. Air Malta has also committed itself to supporting financially the running of the CRC.

As its introduction was not mandatory, industrial relations analysts view the Air Malta works council as a demonstration of a positive attitude towards employee participation at a time that has seen the reduction of workers’ representation on the boards of several Maltese organisations following the implementation of privatisation schemes and restructuring exercises.

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