Windjet employees asked to sign temporary lay-off agreements

Protesting workers to plan further action August 25

Windjet employees asked to sign temporary lay-off agreements

(ANSA) - Catania, August 16 - Italian airline Windjet asked its employees to sign temporary lay-off agreements on Thursday, two days after Italian flagship carrier Alitalia turned down overtures from its smaller rival calling for a merger to save the faltering business. The workers plan to discuss future action on August 25 at Catania airport in Sicily, where the carrier operates from, according to Cisl trade union representative Rosaria Rotolo. The airline's employees have been carrying out wildcat protests in the airport in recent weeks. Alitalia on Tuesday ended talks that started some months ago after Windjet chief Stefano Rantuccio requested more favourable conditions for the company. Rantuccio accused Alitalia of trying to buy the smaller carrier on the cheap, as Alitalia said that buying the Sicilian carrier would expose it to unbearable financial risks. Italian newspapers have reported Windjet carried debt of about 140 million euros, and that it employs as many as 800 people directly. All Windjet flights have been cancelled, and passengers with tickets through August rerouted on other flights at additional costs. Alitalia transported 800 Windjet passengers on some 16 specially organized flights on August 15 and August 16, bringing the overall total of people it has taken to their final destinations to 6,500 people, according to a statement released by the carrier. Marco Veneziani, who heads Uil Trasporti, which many Windjet employees adhere to, pointed fingers at low-cost rivals such as Ryanair as having damaging effects on Windjet. The Irish carrier receives fiscal and subsidy benefits for a total of 400 million euros from the Italian government, whilst operating at costs that are 15% below that of Windjet. The official called on the government to introduce measures that would force Ryanair to have similar costs to those of Italian carriers.

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