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Reportage. The strike adherence was nearly universal, grounding three out of four planes on Wednesday as the former national carrier seeks 2,000 layoffs and massive wage cuts.

Unions ground Alitalia after cuts announcement

Ninety percent of Alitalia employees went on strike, summoned by the confederate and basic union, to face a non-strategic business plan that only includes cuts. The move speaks volumes about the state of the former national carrier.

In addition to the 60 percent of flights canceled estimated by management, there were more flights skipped during the day, because even the most lukewarm workers crossed their arms and participated in demonstrations and meetings held at Fiumicino airport. The end result was that about three out every four aircrafts stayed on the ground.

Such an impressive abstention from work was the direct result of the “impossible dispute,” summarized well by Nino Cortorillo, representative of the Filt Cgil union: “Basing a business plan on a mandatory agreement with the union, called to accept layoffs and wage cuts, is blackmail and not a negotiation. If the company really wants to avoid a dramatic finale, Alitalia needs to become realistic and not ask the union and the workers for an impossible consensus on these proposals. Because the business plan is devoid of development criteria, it is centered solely on cutting costs, including employment and wages.”

In summary, two weeks of negotiations have not produced any tangible results. Still on the table are the elimination of 2,037 ground staff positions, both temporary and permanent workers (1,338 permanent, 558 temporary and 141 abroad). In addition, there are 400 flight attendants currently protected by a defensive solidarity measure that will expire in December. Furthermore, the company has asked for a 28 percent wage cut for middle-range pilots, 22 percent for long-range pilots and 32 percent for flight attendants.

Moreover, the unions say, half of the employees that Alitalia intends to outsource risk being out of work: The continuity of work clause is expected to apply to only half of the 813 positions included in the outsourcing plan, those related to maintenance works.

It must be highlighted that after the two “reorganizations” of the last decade, 12,000 jobs have been eliminated. The surviving 11,500 employees amount to only 16.5 percent of the total costs, a lower ratio than that of Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways. While the true stuck knots of the former national airline are related to the union Usb.

The airline is now in the hands of the UAE company Etihad, which owns 49 percent and the banks (Unicredit and Intesa San Paolo) for the remaining 51 percent. But in the opinion of almost all the employees, the root causes are: the wrong market positioning, given the unnecessary run-up to low-cost airlines; the lack of investment; the heavy ties to international alliances, and costs that have been generally out of control for years.

Negotiations will resume Friday. Meanwhile, at question time in the House, Labor Minister Giuliano Poletti reiterated that Alitalia should remain a private company. Then he pointed out: “By a decree issued on April 4, the ministry has authorized extraordinary temporary unemployment compensation, following the signing of a solidarity agreement for the period from March 1, 2016 to Aug. 1, 2017, for 4,823 solidarity contracts out of a total 11,462 jobs.”

Finally, he suggested: “eventually, the staff can be admitted to the protection provided by the air transport fund to support payments of unemployment benefits under the current legislation.” That is, the Naspi.

As for possible early retirement, since the bottom of the barrel had been already scraped from the previous two “reorganizations,” a few days ago Alitalia management announced it is seeking about 500 employees willing to resign in exchange for a cash parachute and guaranteed social security cushions for at least two years.

“The business plan is unacceptable for its unsustainable social costs and its weakness for a relaunch of the company,” Stefano Fassina, representative of Sinistra Italiana, replied to Poletti. “And the government cannot simply facilitate the blackmail by the company to the workers, resorting to the public budget for more social safety nets. Public funds should instead be used to capitalize Alitalia and ensure its revitalization, through adequate investment. Why can the State spend 20 billion for the banks, why can the Deposits and Loans Fund enter into Acciaitalia to save Ilva, and yet it cannot participate in the relaunching of Alitalia?”

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