Hundreds of strikers block road to Rome airport, disrupt flights

Demonstrators block the highway during a protest against the new state-owned airline Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA), successor to Alitalia, at the Fiumicino airport near Rome, Italy, September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

FIUMICINO, Italy (Reuters) - Hundreds of striking air workers blocked the highway to Rome's main airport on Friday as they called on the government to avoid job losses in the transition between Alitalia and a new carrier dubbed ITA.

The protesters sat down in the middle of the road linking Fiumicino airport to the capital as police with shields looked on. The strike action forced Alitalia and other airlines to cancel more than 130 flights, officials said.

Demonstrators also brought a fake coffin draped with European flags on a truck and left it in front of the airport, in a complaint against EU constraints on the hiring of Alitalia workers by ITA.

Negotiations between ITA - which stands for Italia Trasporto Aereo - and the unions are currently stalled but the new company is set to become operational and replace the old carrier from Oct. 15.

Unions say that only 2,800 out of a total of nearly 11,000 employees of Alitalia will be immediately re-hired by ITA and that the labour contract offered by ITA will be less generous than the one of Alitalia.

"The government has so far been silent in this negotiation. For us it is essential to safeguard jobs," a unions joint statement said.

ITA will initially operate a fleet of 52 planes, seven of which are wide-body, used for longer-haul routes. The number is expected to increase progressively to 105 aircraft in 2025.

Between 2,750 and 2,950 Alitalia staff members will be employed in the ITA's aviation unit this year, rising to 5,550-5,700 in 2025.

Up to 4,000 workers will likely be hired in handling and maintenance units.

(Writing by Angelo Amante; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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