Alitalia unions reject takeover terms

 

Alitalia's nine unions on Friday rejected a revised version of Air France-KLM's takeover plan for the nearly bankrupt Italian flag carrier, the Ansa news agency reported.

 

Billed as a final offer, the revised plan submitted overnight to the unions confirmed the intention to cut 2,100 jobs but sweetened severance terms, Ansa said.

 

The new proposal "substantially repeats what has already been shown to the unions" on Tuesday, eight of Alitalia's nine labour unions said in a joint statement, adding that the unions "reconfirm that they find (the offer) inadequate."

 

The pilots union ANPAC was the first to reject the new plan early Friday.

 

"For us pilots the Air France plan is over. It's a closed chapter," the head of ANPAC, Fabio Berti, told Italy's Canale 5 television. "Everything we expected was confirmed in substance. There's no improvement."

 

Air France-KLM chief Jean-Cyril Spinetta was quoted as writing in the new offer's cover letter: "We cannot go further without reopening discussion of the very fundamentals of our project for Alitalia."

 

Trading in Alitalia shares, which had surged recently before plunging again, was suspended on the Milan stock exchange early Friday.

 

The new plan calls for a generous severance package for about 1,600 employees to be laid off from Alitalia's flight operations and 500 from the maintenance unit AZ Servizi.

 

A first round of talks with the unions, who fear that job cuts could reach up to 7,000, ended in disagreement last week.

 

Spinetta said after the failed talks last week that "the room for manoeuvre is very small or non-existent" for a company on the verge of bankruptcy and losing some €1 million (Dh5.87m) per day.

 

But he let it be known that he would continue negotiating with labour unions beyond an initial deadline of next Monday, subject to a green light from the Italian treasury, a 49.9 per cent shareholder.

 

Italy's outgoing centre-left government on March 17 approved the acquisition through a share swap of one Air France-KLM share for every 160 Alitalia shares, valuing the Italian airline at €140m.

 

The takeover plan also entails massive cutbacks of operations at Milan's Malpensa airport and is opposed by many politicians in the north, a right-wing stronghold, with general elections in a little over two weeks.

 

The future of the ailing flagship airline has become a key election issue ahead of the April 13-14 polls that outgoing opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi is tipped to win.

 

The centre-right leader, a self-made billionaire from Milan, said last Friday he would reject the Air France-KLM plan out of hand if elected, and the French-Dutch airline has said it would not go forward without the approval of the next government.

 

Berlusconi has made frequent assertions of an all-Italian alternative to Air France-KLM, while the specifics of a homegrown consortium remain unclear.

 

Meanwhile Italy's market watchdog CONSOB has reportedly begun close monitoring of Alitalia share trades.

 

And Italian airline Air One – which was part of an all-Italian offer for Alitalia that was rejected by the outgoing centre-left government – announced on Thursday it has speeded up a plan to fill the void when Alitalia begins eliminating routes from Malpensa at the weekend, Ansa said. (AFP)

 

 

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