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Strike leaves Alitalia flights grounded

Italy's ailing carrier Alitalia was forced to cancel 114 flights after ground personnel fearful of losing their jobs started a wildcat strike. Alitalia is expected to sign an alliance with Air France after its takeover by an Italian investor group.

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AFP - A wildcat strike by Alitalia workers Thursday forced the Italian flagship airline to cancel 114 flights, the airport news agency Telenews reported.

Part of the airline's ground personnel held a general assembly at Rome's Fiumicino airport for several hours early Thursday, Telenews said.

The action by workers fearful of losing their jobs when Alitalia is relaunched as a private airline next week caused the cancellation of 63 departing flights and 51 Rome-bound flights, Telenews said.

Several hundred passengers were affected by the action, which could resume in the afternoon, the report said.

Alitalia was saved from the brink of bankruptcy by an all-Italian investor group, the Italian Air Company (CAI).

After months of tense negotiations with the unions, CAI finalised a takeover plan involving 3,250 job losses in mid-December.

The deal to acquire Alitalia's passenger operations for 1.052 billion euros (1.43 billion dollars) involves merging the airline with domestic rival Air One.

Jettisoning unprofitable routes, the new company will serve 23 domestic and 47 international destinations, of which 13 will be intercontinental.

The new Alitalia will operate 670 flights a day, compared with 1,050 previously.

The success of the relaunched Alitalia will depend heavily on a foreign partner, and the European giant Air France-KLM is expected to acquire a stake of up to 25 percent.

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