Alitalia plans to lay off about 5,000 of its 21,000 employees

Trade unions at the Italian state airline Alitalia agreed to continue discussions with management on its rescue plan for the struggling carrier and are not for the moment considering a strike, a top union official said. "It's not the moment to go on strike," said Fabrizio Solari, general secretary of the transportation branch of the CGIL union. "To discuss matters such as labor costs and contracts we first have to know what the objectives are." Trade union leaders conferred among themselves earlier in the day to prepare for further contacts with management on its plan -- unveiled late Monday -- to salvage the airline through 5,000 job cuts spread over two years and the division of the company into two units. Alitalia chairman and chief executive Giancarlo Cimoli has said a union-management deal must be struck by September 15 if a crucial 400-million-euro (483-million-dollar) government-backed bridging loan from a German bank is to be obtained. Without the funds, Alitalia could exhaust its cash reserves by the end of the month. Alitalia employee representatives issued sharp criticism of the proposals, describing than as "unbearable," "worrisome" and "unconvincing." Unions have also appealed for intervention by the state, which has a 62.37 percent stake in the company, informs Cannelnewasia. According to thwe NYTimes, Alitalia, the Italian government-run airline and a partner with Delta and Air France in the SkyTeam alliance, told its unions on Monday that it planned to lay off about 5,000 of its 21,000 employees in a move to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection. In addition to the dismissals, the airline's chief executive, Giancarlo Cimoli, said Alitalia would further pare its payroll by not renewing the contracts of another 1,000 seasonal workers. The job cuts are part of a general restructuring presented to union leaders on Monday that includes a plan to split Alitalia's flight operations and ground services into separate units. While some union leaders said they would accept the Alitalia plan as the only chance to keep the airline from failing, others promised strikes. Many unions will meet Tuesday in Rome to formulate a response to Mr. Cimoli's plan. An agreement between management and the unions is crucial to the company's survival because the Italian government has said it would not guarantee a 400-million-euro loan ($480 million) that Alitalia needs unless the unions accepted the restructuring plan. Reuters reports that Unions at Alitalia called a plan to cut a quarter of the workforce "unacceptable" Tuesday and urged the Italian government to step in to ease the pain of restructuring the ailing state-controlled airline. Alitalia's management unveiled the 5,000 job cuts to unions late Monday as part of a plan to stop the airline going bust. The plan also envisages splitting the firm into two entities -- a flying and non-flying arm -- and reversing losses by 2006. But while saying the plan "confirmed the darkest forecasts," the mainstream unions said they wanted to talk, not strike. "Our opinion of what they told us yesterday is pretty clear -- the plan as it stands has to be changed," said Savino Pezzotta, head of one of Italy's biggest unions, the Cisl. A joint statement by Alitalia's main unions said the 5,000 job cuts might be underestimated as they did not include workers on short-term contracts who could also go. Unions previously said they expected up to 7,000 job cuts. "The extraordinary number of job losses... makes the whole proposed framework unacceptable," the unions said. Alitalia employs 20,700 people. "Unions reconfirm their willingness to look for all possible solutions including via productivity improvements," they said.

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