I can't resist blogging AGAIN about the drama at Alitalia, which really does seem headed, if not for hell in a handbasket, then at least for bankruptcy or a bailout in a basket.
Once and perhaps future prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, in profoundly cynical moves, has managed to help turn the future of the struggling carrier into a political football to be tossed around at his whim. At least, until after the national election in mid-April. At that point, he'll very likely lose interest and drop the ball, and that could mean bankruptcy or at least, a fatal blow to Alitalia.
Anyway, several news wire services are reporting today that Alitalia's biggest union walked out of talks in Milan with Air France-KLM's CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta, who has been seeking union support for his carrier's bid to take over/ merge with Italy's struggling flagship carrier.
Marco Veneziani, national-secretary of the UIL transport union, which represents about 2,500 Alitalia workers, said the talks "mean nothing" until a new government is in place that can decide whether to go ahead with a deal.
"First, a new government and then negotiations, a least as far as the UIL is concerned," Veneziani said.
Not a very constructive way to negotiate. Clearly, Berlusconi has convinced unions that he can do something to save their jobs. which is very cruel. At some point, there will have to be a reckoning.
Berlusconi, who is the front-runner to be re-elected prime minister in the April 13-14 elections, has publicly opposed Alitalia's sale to Air France-KLM and has suggested he has a group of Italian investors ready to step in. Alas, he hasn't been able to produce any evidence at all of such a bid. Previous attempts by Italian investors to organize a counterbid failed late last year.
However, the unions cling to hope of saving all of their jobs, although that doesn't look realistic. Particularly in an open-skies world of intense competition. Spinetta was in talks with nine unions representing Alitalia's work force of 11,000 Tuesday and has insisted on the backing of Alitalia's unions before finalizing the Air France-KLM offer to buy Alitalia. Talks were continuing with the other unions, Italian news agencies reported, and could go into Tuesday.
The outgoing center-left government had approved the deal involving Air France-KLM, but unions remain concerned about Air France's plans to lay off 2,100 people. The takeover also is meeting resistance over plans to downgrade Milan's Malpensa airport from a hub, and to instead concentrate flights out of Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport.
Alitalia already has severely cut flights from Malpensa, beginning with the summer schedule this week, as it seeks to streamline operations. The airline is losing €1 million (US$1.6 million) a day.