Troubled Alitalia to slash one fifth of its staff: Union

A picture taken on March 15, 2017, shows passengers boarding an Alitalia - Etihad plane on the runway of the airport of Brindisi.
A picture taken on March 15, 2017, shows passengers boarding an Alitalia - Etihad plane on the runway of the airport of Brindisi.PHOTO: AFP

MILAN (AFP) - Troubled airline Alitalia is planning to make 2,400 staff redundant and cut some salaries by almost a third, trade union sources said on Friday (March 17).

The envisaged job cuts are equivalent to one fifth of the company's workforce of around 12,000 and include just over 2,000 ground staff, the sources said.

A further 400 job cuts will follow in the coming months among in-flight staff currently protected by employment guarantees that are due to expire soon.

Remaining staff are to be asked to accept drastic pay cuts - up to 28 per cent for pilots and up to 32 per cent for hostesses and stewards.

After unveiling details of the management's plans, unions called for a strike on April 5 to protest against them.

Extensive jobs cuts have been anticipated for months at the loss-making Italian carrier which announced a drastic cost-cutting plan on Wednesday without giving details of the scale of redundancies envisaged.

The company is de facto controlled by Etihad Airways, which acquired a 49 per cent stake when it saved Alitalia from bankruptcy in 2014.

The Emirati airline entered the partnership declaring its intention to transform Alitalia into a leaner operation with industry-leading service standards - both goals it has failed to deliver, according to industry analysts.

The latest survival plan involves cutting costs by one billion euros (S$1.51 billion) by the end of 2019 while simultaneously growing sales by 30 per cent.

The company said it was subject to unions agreeing to new working arrangements and job cuts - issues which had already prompted a series of strikes in recent months.

One dispute focused on whether air hostesses can be required to clean the onboard toilet cabins.

Alitalia is also planning to change course on strategy with the company promising a more aggressive pursuit of customers who have abandoned it for low-cost rivals.

The company had previously targeted a return to the black in 2017, but its losses amounted to 460 million euros in 2016 and are forecast to be on a similar scale this year.