Protests at Italy's Alitalia can finish bankruptcy

Italy's Alitalia expected cancellations or delays for as many as 250 flights Monday as workers continued wildcat protests, while the labor minister warned in an interview that the government will not bail out the troubled airline. Though unions called off a 24-hour strike for Monday, Alitalia workers picketed at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, gathering round fires in the early morning cold. Alitalia said in a statement that it was expecting the protests to trigger as many as 250 delays and cancellations. It said similar protests Sunday had forced the airline to scrap 121 flights. 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.

Roberto Maroni, labor minister in Silvio Berlusconi's center-right government, told La Repubblica newspaper that the protests could lead Alitalia to bankruptcy. "At the end of this route you go straight to the courthouse with the account books, you get to the bankruptcy of Alitalia," Maroni was quoted as saying.

Maroni said the European Union would not allow the government to bail out the airline, as it has done in the past. "Today, therefore, there's no more space to negotiate and to talk about money," he told the paper. Wildcat stoppages were expected to continue ahead of a meeting planned for Wednesday between unions and government representatives. Alitalia workers have been protesting since Thursday, causing travel chaos and hundreds of cancellations of national and international flights, reports the AP. N.U.

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