ALITALIA PILOTS planned a . strike on 18 January, in an attempt to apply further pressure on the carrier's management to concede pay increases in return for productivity improvements.

The strike threat comes amid talks between Alitalia and its two pilots' unions over the need for major cost-savings and changes in working practices. Unions are understood to be asking for annual wage rises worth around L14 million ($8,600) per pilot in exchange for accepting longer hours.

That could result in a net cost to the airline of around L540 billion, if applied across all of its 18,000 pilots. Alitalia has made no official comment on the details of the negotiations, but chief executive Roberto Schisano makes clear in a letter to employees that there is no money for wage increases.

It remains to be seen how effective the 4h strike action - already delayed from 9 January - will prove. The APPL union, which traditionally represented pilots in Alitalia's now-absorbed ATI domestic subsidiary, says that it may not join in the action. That leaves the main AMPAC union, which represents just over half of all pilot-union members, to carry on the strike alone.

At the same time, Alitalia has revealed plans to wet-lease two Boeing 767ERs to take over routes to Chicago and Boston from February. The aircraft are being leased from Australia's Ansett Worldwide Aviation Services.

Pilots put forward plans earlier to set up a new offshoot 767 operation which they would partly own, but this was quashed as unworkable by the management.

Source: Flight International