Air France-KLM, Alitalia unions to meet over takeover
Air France-KLM was to make a new push on Monday to get Alitalia's unions on board for the European giant's move for a take over.
ROME, March 31, 2008 - Air France-KLM was to make a new push on
Monday to get Alitalia's unions on board for the European giant's move to take
over the nearly bankrupt Italian flag carrier.
All nine of the unions representing Alitalia's 11,000-strong work force on
Friday rejected a revised version of the takeover plan but agreed to meet with
Air France-KLM chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta on Monday.
Under the revised offer, the Franco-Dutch company reiterated its intention
to cut 2,100 jobs but sweetened severance terms and offered to absorb more
than 4,000 workers from the company's ground services unit.
A first round of talks with the unions, who fear that job cuts could reach
up to 7,000, ended in disagreement in mid-March.
Monday was initially set as a final deadline for the unions' agreement, but
Spinetta has let it be known negotiations could continue further -- though
with "little or no room for manoeuvre."
Alitalia is on the brink of bankruptcy, losing some one million euros (1.6
million dollars) a day.
The company is seeking a bridging loan of 300 million euros from the
government to tide it over until the promised recapitalisation of some one
billion euros promised by Air France-KLM in the takeover deal.
Air France-KLM's 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 ground services unit AZ Servizi, which is to be shut down in eight years.
The European giant wants all categories of workers to accept the terms of
its takeover plan before proceeding.
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 140 million euros.
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.
Berlusconi has made frequent assertions of an all-Italian alternative to
Air France-KLM, while the specifics of a homegrown consortium remain unclear.
The centre-right leader has said 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.
On Sunday, Alitalia eliminated more than two-thirds of its flights from
Milan's Malpensa airport, to the dismay of the region's politicians and
Italy's national flag carrier cut all but 366 of the more than 1,200
flights in and out of Malpensa it operated each week. It cut 14 of its 17
inter-continental routes, keeping only New York, Sao Paulo and Tokyo.