ROME, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Struggling Italian airline Alitalia was forced to cancel 60 percent of scheduled flights on Thursday as its employees went on strike to protest about employment conditions.
Hundreds of employees marched outside Rome's main airport, where usually bustling check-in areas were deserted.
Alitalia's controlling shareholder Etihad Airways, which has a 49 percent stake, is pushing for deep job cuts. The airline's financial losses and failure to fend off low-cost competition is widely blamed on years of poor management.
Protesters said on Thursday they had been on "precarious" temporary contracts for 60 months, and were being asked to accept ever-harsher working conditions.
"Something needs to change," said Alitalia employee Luca Iannelli. "The workers shouldn't be the ones paying for the bad decisions made by managers who aren't up to the task of heading the company and are unable to get it to make a profit."
Sources say heavy restructuring may include up to 2,000 job cuts and grounding of planes, in a last-ditch attempt to keep flying. (Reporting by Antonio Denti; writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)