Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Alitalia union talks to resume

Alitalia workers protest
Alitalia workers oppose the proposed job cuts

Talks between unions representing workers at Italy's loss-making airline Alitalia and prospective owner Air France-KLM will resume on Tuesday.

Last week negotiations ended without resolution with unions unhappy about plans to cut at least 1,600 jobs.

Air-France KLM has said the takeover will only proceed with the unions' approval and has set a 31 March deadline for an agreement.

The issue has become a prominent one in the current Italian election campaign.

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi called on the Alitalia unions to consider the future of the troubled airline during the talks.

"A great sense of responsibility on the part of the unions is needed," Mr Prodi told Italian television.

This month, Mr Prodi's government agreed to sell its 49.9% share in the company to Air France-KLM.

However former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is standing in next month's election, called the Air France bid an "arrogant French offer". He promised to reject the deal if he wins next month's elections.

Mr Prodi stated on Monday a home-grown takeover of Alitalia would be desirable, but he said a "serious, concrete", Italian-led proposal had not been forthcoming.


Alitalia has lost money for the last five years. Last year its chairman said it was in a "comatose" state, losing more than one million euros (776,000) a day.

It if succeeds, Air France-KLM says it plans to substantially restructure the Italian airline, and raise one billion euros by issuing new shares in the company.

It intends to end some flights and reduce the number of aircraft, as well as ending the contracting out of ground handling and aircraft maintenance, which currently carried out by a separate company, Alitalia Servizi.

Maintenance workers protested against the plans outside the recent talks at Alitalia's headquarters, clashing with police.

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