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Alitalia workers nix deal to avoid airline bankruptcy


ROME (AP) — Alitalia employees late Monday rejected a government-brokered package of job and wage cuts that was aimed at saving Italy's flagship airline from bankruptcy.

Immediately after the "no" votes won in a referendum on the proposed industrial plan that Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni had linked to Alitalia's survival, a union leader called on banks and other investors to devise another strategy to ensure a future for the airline.

"What will happen, I don't know," UILTrasporti union leader Claudio Tarlazzi told RAI News24 state TV.

"The country needs Alitalia, and 12,500 people don't deserve to go home" jobless, Tarlazzi said, referring to the airline's employees. He urged banks and shareholders to "show good sense" and called for renewed negotiations with unions for a revised industrial plan.

Alitalia's board could meet as soon as Tuesday to chart the next step, which was widely expected to be a request for extraordinary administration in anticipation of possible bankruptcy.

The airline reportedly has been losing 2 million euros (nearly $2.2 million) daily.

Some 12,500 Alitalia workers began voting last week on whether to accept the package offering less drastic wage cuts and fewer layoffs than first proposed. Parent company Etihad Airways wants to cut costs in hopes of securing 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in investment to keep the airline afloat.

The deal would have cut flight crews' wages an average of 8 percent and laid off some 980 permanent workers.

Union leaders had urged workers to accept the proposal, though they described the employees as understandably angry.

The current crisis follows about 20 years of attempts to successfully re-launch the company, including privatization efforts and searches for industrial partners.

Alitalia has suffered from competition from low-cost airlines. And high-speed trains run between Rome and Milan, Italy's political and business hearts, draining passengers from what was long a bread-and-butter Alitalia route.