lunedì 11 agosto 2014

Laid-off Alitalia staff to get 'new jobs immediate

Union says don't forget 'human wounds' created by cuts

(ANSA) - Rome, August 11 - More than half of the Alitalia employees laid off under the airline's deal with Etihad Airways "will be relocated immediately" to new positions, says Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi. Of the 2,250 job cuts the Abu Dhabi-based demanded under the deal that will see it invest about 560 million euros for a 49% stake in Alitalia, 1,250 will be re-employed right away, said Lupi.

The agreement "is good news," said the minister, whose government had pressed hard for the deal that Lupi has said was essential to keeping the money-losing Italian carrier alive. Lupi said that of the 1,250 workers to be immediately employed, about 200 will be aircraft maintenance workers in Italy.

According to published reports, Alitalia staff who agree to resign must tell the airline by September 10 and will receive a 10,000 euros bonus. Some others will be employed by Etihad, as well as third-party companies and suppliers to the airlines. While the deal, which was formally signed Friday, will keep Alitalia in the air, it also offers Etihad a stronger foothold in Europe and access to lucrative routes. At the signing ceremony, Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said that the airline intends to invest as much as 1.758 billion euros in Alitalia over the coming years. "Our entry into Alitalia is to be partners," Hogan said after the pact was formally signed Friday by chief executive officers of the two airlines.

Lupi is also said to be working on an extension of a program that has assisted past Alitalia employees who were laid off and received redundancy payments. That program will expire in October 2015 and Lupi is reportedly working for an extension until 2018. The investment pact between Alitalia and Etihad was supported by most of the unions representing airline workers, and the lone holdout signed on the deal at the last moment. But remaining Alitalia workers are said to be concerned about their future, including fears they may be asked to transfer to work at Etihad's base in the United Arab Emirates.

Despite the good will surrounding the new deal at present, no one should forget the “human wounds" created by the layoffs as well as the "serious social repercussions", said the Secretary General of UGL union Geremia Mancini. Some workers took a bitter tone after hearing Hogan quip that he wants Alitalia to become "the sexiest airline in Europe". "Of course, we will be a more sexy company, (workers) are left with only their underwear," workers said.

Meanwhile, rumours continued to circulate about possible new leadership at Alitalia, with suggestions that Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Ferrari's number one, could take the job of chairman but as a figurehead without daily operating authority. He has previously denied interest in the job. 

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