Workers for soon-to-be-defunct Alitalia block highway exit

ROME (AP) — Hundreds of Alitalia workers blocked a highway exit outside Rome’s main airport on Friday in a protest το vent their anger that most of the airline’s staff will soon lose their jobs.

As of Oct. 15, Alitalia, long financially ailing, won’t exist anymore. The new company being formed, called ITA, says it will only keep some 2,800 of 10,000 of Alitalia’s employees.

In protest, Alitalia employees hit back by forcing the cancellation of many flights during the day-long walkout. Along the roadway and near the highway exit for Leonardo da Vinci Airport, some strikers sat down, while others skirmished with police in riot gear.

The protest caused kilometers-long traffic tie-ups. “Work! Work!” they shouted.

Alitalia workers also want unemployment benefits to last five years, as opposed to one year under the current arrangement.

Union leaders are pressing Premier Mario Draghi’s government to guide negotiations in order to secure better conditions for workers who will keep their jobs and fewer job cuts.

ITA’s industrial plan also calls for reducing the fleet of aircraft.