Italian PM urges Alitalia workers to accept last-ditch deal

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Rome, April 14 (IANS/AKI) Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Friday that he hoped Alitalia workers would approve a cost-cutting deal reached overnight with trade unions to keep the struggling flagship airline in business.

“Alitalia is a private company but the government has spared no effort to find a turnaround plan which I hope is confirmed by the workers,” Gentiloni told a press conference.

The government-brokered deal was reached after marathon talks in which Alitalia’s management and unions agreed to lay off around 1,700 ground staff and cut wages by 8 percent, CGIL union’s Susanna Camusso said in a statement.

The deal also calls for greater investment in long-haul routes which analysts say are crucial for Alitalia’s survival.

“We made the biggest effort we could to bring the sides together and save Alitalia,” said Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio after the talks.

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“We are satisfied with the outcome,” Delrio stated, adding that without the deal “the company would have gone bust within a matter of days”.

Alitalia workers need to approve the deal in a vote next week, but if it passes, it will pave the way for a two billion euro refinancing package.

The cash call will be launched by investors in the airline including Etihad of the United Arab Emirates, which owns 49 percent of Alitalia, and Italy’s top two banks Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit.

Earlier this year, Alitalia said it was delaying its return to profitability until 2019 and that this would require 2,000 lay-offs and a 30 percent pay cut for pilots and flight attendants over a three-year period.

That plan was met with outrage by unions, strikes that disrupted air travel in Italy, and tense negotiations ending in the marathon talks that led to Friday’s tentative deal.

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