Alitalia gets a partial bailout
Time running out as bankrupt Italian airline fights for life
Alitalia SpA’s larger unions and potential buyers reached a partial agreement on a rescue plan for the insolvent airline that was immediately denounced by labour groups excluded from the talks.
“It has been a difficult and intense effort, but the accord represents an important, shared agreement on the industrial plan,” Labor Minister Maurizio Sacconi said in a faxed statement.
Sacconi led the talks with four of Alitalia’s nine unions and Rocco Sabelli, chief executive officer of CAI, the group of Italian investors formed to buy parts of Alitalia in a bid to save the failing carrier from bankruptcy. The negotiations focused only on CAI’s industrial plan and not on labour contracts, one of the most contentious issues, which contributed to the original talks collapsing on Sept. 12.
Alitalia filed for insolvency on Aug. 29, allowing the state-backed rescue to begin. The plan calls for CAI, led by Piaggio & C. SpA Chairman Roberto Colaninno, to buy Alitalia’s commercial flight assets and merge them with domestic rival Air One SpA. The unprofitable businesses would be sold or liquidated. Union opposition prompted CAI to abandon the talks hours after a Sept. 11 deadline expired and Sacconi is leading the effort to bring the two sides back together.
No united front
Differences among the carrier’s nine unions and their inability to form a single position in the talks, has complicated efforts to forge an agreement. Sacconi today included the unions with national representation, excluding the others that are just Alitalia workers such as the two pilots unions and flight staff.
“Any agreement without our direct consultation, is rejected and considered useless and a provocation,” said Fabrizio Tomaselli, coordinator of the SDL flight attendants union, outside a Labor Ministry building where talks were supposed to be held with all nine unions. Those talks were originally due to begin at Sunday night and hadn’t taken place when Tomaselli made his remarks at 1 a.m. Monday.
Outside the building hundreds of Alitalia workers gathered, shouting “thieves” and “buffoons,” referring to Sacconi, CAI and the other unions. Earlier they tossed coins and cigarette butts at state-appointed bankruptcy commissioner Augusto Fantozzi, who is charged with implementing the rescue plan and selling off the assets not bought by CAI.
Time is running out for Alitalia. Fantozzi told union officials on Sept. 13 that the carrier was virtually out of cash and might have to start canceling flights because it was having trouble securing fuel. Vito Riggio, head of the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, said yesterday that Alitalia, which lost more than US$3 million a day in the first half, risked losing its operating license if a solution isn’t found soon.
Sacconi said that talks with the other unions and discussions on the labour contract would begin today. Unions have balked at CAI’s plan to cut 3,250 workers and reduce salaries by as much as 40 per cent.