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Wed 15 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Talks drag on as unions halt Alitalia rescue

Last-minute talks are currently being held in an attempt to save Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier, from bankruptcy and the loss of 20,000 jobs.

Last-minute talks are currently being held in an attempt to save Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier, from bankruptcy and the loss of 20,000 jobs.

The debt-ridden operator is operating under the control of a bankruptcy commissioner and has faced opposition from unions who fear that any rescue solution will involve slashing jobs and salaries.

Some of the nine unions with interests in the airline have signed a draft deal with CAI, the consortium prepared to invest in a new company, but as this magazine was going to press, those unions did not include those representing pilots and cabin crew.

As talks dragged on, the government-appointed commissioner of the airline warned that flights could be grounded as suppliers could not be located to provide jet fuel for the stricken company.

Alitalia is losing in the region of US$3 million a day and has not been profitable since 1999. However, saving the airline was one of the promises made by current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during his election campaign earlier this year.

The plans for Alitalia's cargo arm are for now not certain, as there are conflicting reports as to whether the CAI consortium will decide sell the division off, if it is able to finally gain control.

"We asked the government-appointed administrator of the company to find a multi-annual outsourcing contract, foreseeing us taking a stake," announced Rocco Sabelli, chief executive officer of the CAI consortium.

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