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Alitalia strike grounds 60 percent of flights

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/04/2017

MILAN — Italy's flagship carrier was forced to cancel 60 percent of flights Wednesday after unions staged a 24-hour strike to protest job and salary cuts that are part of a plan to relaunch the struggling Italian airline.

Unions said the airline wants to have their backing for the plan announced last month by April 13, but that the sides remain far apart.

"We are very far from agreement," Ivan Viglietti of the UIL transport union told Sky TG24. "The plan itself does not guarantee a future or development of Alitalia."

Viglietti cited insufficient investment in long-range routes needed to earn cash to help the airline recover from losses.

The Italian news agency ANSA said the government has been meeting with the Italian shareholders, who control 51 percent of the airline, to come up with an investment to help the airline return to health.

The economic development ministry plans talks with unions on Friday.

Viglietti said one proposal favored by the unions would be nationalizing Alitalia as a strategic asset.

"It has a certain logic," he said. "The country should have a flagship."

Alitalia said it had rebooked more than 90 percent of passengers from the canceled flights, deploying larger aircraft on the busiest routes.

The new business plan foresees more than 2,000 job cuts and salary cuts of 20 to 30 percent for pilots and flight attendants.

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