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Law changes in Italy to protect Alitalia

Law changes in Italy to protect Alitalia
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Thousands of airline jobs are under threat as Italy tries to save its loss-making national carrier, Alitalia. Six thousand workers face redundancy if the airline is broken up and re-launched. Italian monopoly laws are being suspended to allow the new company to keep its lucrative Rome-Milan route.

The plan drew mixed reaction from Italian politicians. Italo Bocchino, from the People’s Freedom Party, said: “The government’s plan will not only save Alitalia, which is not going to find a buyer in its current state, but will re-launch it as a major European carrier.”

But Paolo Ferrero, Italy’s Communist leader, was dismissive: “This is worse than the Air France plan, because there will be more job losses, it will cost more, and it will destroy the company.”

That original Air France offer was rejected by the Berlusconi government, because it threatened thousands of jobs. But the French carrier has now announced it is ready to take a minority stake in a new re-branded Alitalia, whose struggling ground-services unit will be allowed to go bankrupt.

Alitalia is more than one billion euros in debt, and has been limping along beset by an ageing fleet, inefficiency and strikes. If the new airline does get off the ground, it is expected to focus on short- and medium-haul routes, but with about 40 per cent fewer employees.