| ROME, April 13
ROME, April 13 Talks between Alitalia, labour
unions and the government dragged into the evening on Thursday
as workers baulked at the prospect of heavy job and salary cuts
that Italy's flagship carrier says are necessary to keep
The latest turnaround plan for the ailing airline envisages
cutting more than 2,000 jobs among ground staff and reducing
flight personnel's salaries by up to a third in a last-ditch
attempt to make the company profitable.
The government had hoped to win union backing for the plan
by April 13, so that investors in the airline, which include
Etihad Airways with a 49 percent stake and Italy's top two banks
Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, could launch a
cash call on the following day.
But the unions, whose support for the plan is crucial for
shareholders to unlock fresh financing, said they were unwilling
to accept any further sacrifices.
"There is still a wide gap between the sides both on job
cuts for ground staff and reducing flight personnel's wages," a
labour union source said.
Alitalia CEO Cramer Ball has called the planned cuts
"painful but necessary", but workers say they want more evidence
that the restructuring would bring the promised results,
especially given a string of failed revamps.
"How can we make concessions when we don't even know where
the plan will take us?," Giancarlo Serafini, a member of the
Uiltrasporti union delegation attending the talks, said this
Some union leaders said there was an expectation among
workers that the government would not let a company employing
12,500 people fail.
Alitalia has made an annual profit only a few times in its
Despite several overhauls and cash injections over the
years, it is losing at least half a million euros a day and
could run out of cash in coming weeks unless shareholders agree
to pump in more money, sources say.
Industry Minister Carlo Calenda has said the financing
package for Alitalia is worth 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion),
including an emergency cash injection of 400 million euros to
keep it afloat if the rescue plan does not work out as expected.
The restructuring targets a return to profit by the end of
2019 through 1 billion euros of cost cuts and a revamp of its
business model for short and medium-haul flights.
After buying into Alitalia in 2014, Etihad pledged to return
it to profit by 2017 by slashing costs, turning Rome into an
intercontinental hub and growing lucrative long-haul routes.
But the turnaround faltered in the face of competition from
low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and high-speed rail
services, while deadly attacks across Europe have dented demand
(writing by Silvia Aloisi, editing by David Evans)