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Alitalia’s Cabin Crew Protests

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Protests by pilots and cabin crew at Italy’s ailing airline Alitalia against new labour contracts proposed by the Italian investor group set to take over the carrier caused flight delays Monday.

Around 20 Alitalia flights were delayed by a general assembly between 0800 GMT and 1000 GMT, according to Italian airport news agency Telenews. The average delay was one hour, with some passengers delayed for up to twice as long.

Meanwhile, around 100 of the striking Alitalia staff, working outside the unions, later formed a “Fighting Committee” calling for a 24-hour unscheduled strike to start Monday at 1700 GMT, Telenews agency said.

Their action saw Italy’s Transport Minister Altero Matteoli begin proceedings to conscript the workers, according to a statement, which added that the strikers risked “criminal charges.”

According to Telenews about 95 flights taking off from or landing in Rome’s Fiumicino airport have been or will be cancelled from 2200 GMT. A further 37 flights at Milan’s two airports at Linate and Malpensa were being called off.

Meanwhile, five unions representing most of Alitalia’s pilots and cabin staff have refused to sign the labour contracts offered by CAI, the group of businessmen who have made a bid to take over the airline.

The rebel unions, also known as the “no front,” have called a strike for November 25 and have threatened several more walkouts.

Other main union organisations have signed CAI’s contract.

Under the takeover deal, pilots and flight attendants may be rehired on an individual basis instead of according to procedures agreed with each group. Many of Alitalia’s long-term employees have rejected the scheme.

The Italian government has warned that pilots refusing to work for CAI will lose the right to benefits.

“CAI can’t give up our pilots. It wants to make people believe it can run the company without pilots, flight assistants and ground staff, but it can’t,” said Fabio Berti, head of Anpac, the main union for pilots.

CAI says it will hire pilots from budget airline Ryanair to make up numbers if Alitalia pilots resign.

The Italian group has offered to pay 375 million euros (480 million dollars) for the bankrupt carrier’s assets and take on debt worth over 625 million euros.

Alitalia is losing about three million euros a day and has debts totalling some 1.2 billion euros.

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