Italy: Alitalia staff attack draft deal to save airline

Rome, 15 Sept. (AKI) - Alitalia pilots and flight assistants have criticised a draft deal signed on Monday by four out of nine unions with the investor group formed to save the bankrupt airline.

Dozens of Alitalia employees, mainly flight attendants gathered in protest outside the Labour Ministry in Rome, where further talks got underway over the contracts to be issued to employees of the new company.

"Any agreement without our direct consultation is rejected and considered useless and a provocation," said the five unions not involved in the talks in a joint statement.

The unions represent more than 7,000 pilots and cabin crew, who oppose the salary cuts and longer working hours offered by CAI, the consortium formed to invest in a new national Italian airline.

Luigi Angeletti, Secretary-General of Italian labour union UIL, one of the main Italian unions that signed the draft deal described it as "positive", adding that it maintained salaries at 80 percent of current levels.

Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi said the deal was " a solid base upon which to build a future for (our) national carrier."

Under the agreement, the new Alitalia will employ 12,500 people - including 1,500 pilots, 3,300 cabin staff and 7,650 technicians,workers and managerial staff.

CAI had previously offered to employ only 11,000 people out of Alitalia's total workforce of 20,000 people.

The fate of around 1,000 call centre staff in particular remained unclear on Monday, but Sacconi claimed the deal would involve 3,000 redundancies.

The remaining 4,500 people would be offered alternative employment under the deal.

The last-ditch talks to save Alitalia, which is losing two million euros a day, began on Sunday and Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, intervened personally after talks between CAI and unions failed last Friday.

The national carrier is surviving on a government loan and only has enough cash to last until the end of this month. It filed for insolvency on 29 August.

Over the weekend, Alitalia's bankruptcy commissioner, Augusto Fantozzi, Alitalia's bankruptcy administrator, warned on Saturday some flights might have to be cancelled due to a lack of funds to buy fuel.

No flights were cancelled on Monday in Milan and Rome, airport officials said.

Vito Riggio, head of the Italian Civilian Aviation Authority, said on Sunday Alitalia risked losing its operating licence if a solution was not found soon.

Under the rescue proposal CAI has put forward a one billion euro offer for the airline, which is conditional upon union acceptance of its salvage plan.

Under the plan, Alitalia would merge with Air One, the country's second largest airline, and its 1.2 billion euro debt would be liquidated.

Berlusconi has campaigned for Alitalia to remain in Italian hands. He has championed CAI's bid as an alternative to a previous bid made by French-Dutch airline Air France-KLM earlier this year.

Unions rejected the Air France-KLM plan in April. The Italian government, which has a 49.9 percent stake in Alitalia, has been trying to sell the airline for over two years.


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