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Page last updated at 00:58 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Alitalia hit by 24-hour stoppage

Aircraft with Alitalia livery
The Italian government hopes that most of Alitalia can be saved

A 24-hour strike by pilots and cabin crew at Italy's ailing national airline, Alitalia, has caused huge disruption at Rome's main airport.

Around 100 flights taking off or landing at Fiumicino airport were cancelled, leaving thousands of angry passengers stranded.

Many Alitalia employees are upset at plans to sell the bankrupt airline to a group of Italian industrialists.

Some staff joined in the strike despite pleas by trade unions not to do so.

Cai... wants to make people believe it can run the company without pilots... but it can't
Fabio Berti
Pilot's union

Rescue plan

Negotiations to keep the loss-making airline operating have been going on for the past month between Alitalia's management, the government - which owns a half share - and an investment group, the Cai, which wants to create a new national airline.

The main trade unions have agreed to go along with the rescue plan for a slimmed down carrier.

We cannot allow someone to assume veto powers over a company that is ready to save more than 12,500 jobs
Altero Matteoli
Transport minister

However, some Alitalia pilots and staff refuse to accept the potential loss of thousands of jobs.

"Cai can't give up our pilots. It wants to make people believe it can run the company without pilots, flight assistants and ground staff, but it can't," said Fabio Berti head of the main pilots' union, quoted by the AFP news agency.

The striking workers have threatened several more walkouts.

Necessary action

Roberto Colanino the head of the takeover group says every Alitalia employee, including pilots and cabin crew will have to renegotiate their contracts individually with the new company.

The government has said it would not be intimidated by the angry workers and would take "necessary action" if needed, according to Italy's Ansa news agency.

"We cannot allow someone to assume veto powers over a company that is ready to invest and save more than 12,500 jobs and which has a solid business plan to jump start a company which would otherwise have failed," said Transport minister, Altero Matteoli.

Meanwhile railway workers in Rome and other cities staged a strike in a dispute over contract negotiations.

The stoppage caused chaos and roads were jammed as many people were forced to travel by car or scooter.



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SEE ALSO
EU rules warning on Alitalia deal
02 Nov 08 |  Business
Unions backing Alitalia rescue
29 Sep 08 |  Business
Alitalia gets temporary reprieve
25 Sep 08 |  Business
Alitalia may lose licence to fly
22 Sep 08 |  Business

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