Italian government in "hopeful" Alitalia talks with labour unions

Business Materials 25 September 2008 13:32 (UTC +04:00)

Italian government officials were set later Thursday to hold talks with labour unions on the fate of troubled national carrier Alitalia, amid what news reports said was optimism on an agreement over the carrier's takeover by a private consortium, reported dpa.

The late-morning meeting including the nine unions representing Alitalia employees was scheduled to be held at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office in Rome.

The premier's close aide Gianni Letta was expected to chair it.

"I am hopeful, but to say that everything has been concluded is not correct," Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said ahead of the talks.

Letta was involved in a series of meetings until late Wednesday in an effort to bring the private consortium CAI back on board after it had withdrawn its buy-out bid for state-controlled Alitalia las week.

Then, three of the unions, including the main CGIL confederation, had rejected CAI's rescue plan for the airline, including at least 3,000 job cuts.

But on Wednesday, government officials reportedly persuaded CAI to soften its stance, paving the way for the meeting with the unions.

CGIL and the other dissenting unions were also apparently persuaded by Berlusconi's announcement that foreign carriers - Lufthansa and Air France - could also join the CAI bid at a later stage.

CGIL has expressed concern that a wholly CAI controlled Alitalia would not be able to offer a long-range international service in the highly competitive flight sector where mergers are seen as the only way for many airlines to survive.

Berlusconi insisted however, that Alitalia would remain in "Italian hands" with a foreign carrier's participation not exceeding 22 per cent.

Also Thursday, Italy's flight controller ENAC was expected to decide on its threat to revoke Alitalia's operating licence unless it could prove an ability to honour mounting debts.