Alitalia cancels dozens of flights because of labor unrest

State airline Alitalia said continuing labor unrest had forced it to cancel dozens of flights Saturday as the government called a meeting next week with union officials to resolve the crisis, company and union officials said.

The unions, meanwhile, were considering suspending a 24-hour strike that had been called for Monday _ the second in less than a week, said Alberto Cassandra, a spokesman for the Filt-Cgil transport union.

The government called a meeting with union officials for Wednesday.

Ground crew workers, including baggage handlers and airplane maintenance workers, refused to work Saturday, Cassandra said. Union officials have said the protests stemmed from a breakdown in negotiations with the government.

On Thursday, Alitalia's employees went on a one-day strike. The carrier had warned the ongoing trouble could force it to cancel 130 flights Saturday, and union officials said it could be double that.

Alitalia said in a statement that as of Saturday afternoon it had been forced to cancel 52 flights. However, it said more cancellations and delays were possible.

Workers are protesting restructuring plans at the loss-making airline, which have included cutting jobs and spinning off the airline's flight unit from its less profitable ground services business, AP reported. V.A.