More than 50 flight attendants arrived at Campidoglio, the heart of Rome, to strip to register their protest.
Flight attendants in Italy are protesting poor working conditions, pay, and layoffs by stripping at the center of Rome, the nation's capital. Airline Alitalia stopped functioning and gave way to ITA airways, Italy's new national airline. ITA debuted last week but former Alitalia flight attendants are protesting the transition that left roughly 75% of them without a job. The flight attendants made a powerful statement as they took off their uniforms at Campidoglio, the center of power in Rome for around 2,000 years. The protest saw at least 50 former Alitalia flight attendants turn up.
The staff removed their clothes down to their underwear as they chanted: "We are Alitalia." The protest was set against the main square in Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo. They protested against their job loss and poor pay awarded to those who were retained by ITA Airways. Some ITA flight attendants said they took a pay cut and also lost their seniority after being retained. One of them said they were not told far in advance when they would be working, causing confusion among the attendants who have been retained.
ITA President Alfredo Altavilla ignored the protests and pointed to contracts being signed by the staff. He called threats of strike action "a thing of national shame." The workers have little to no bargaining power when you lay off more than 75% of the staff but Altavilla simply pointed to the contracts and said the working conditions were agreed upon. "Bargaining over contracts is more than finished. They are all on board, and they have signed the contract that we sent them," said Altavilla earlier this month. Only 2,800 of the total 10,500 Alitalia staff were retained by ITA following the transition.
The new ITA airways have retained 52 of Alitalia's 110 planes while making plans to buy an entirely new fleet of Airbuses. The flights will feature Italian-made products and will be used in everything ranging from crew uniforms to lounge furniture. The new ITA livery will be phased into the flights with time and will be sky blue, representing Italy's national sports teams. The company is in talks with major brands on various matters including finalizing ITA's uniforms, fixtures, and fittings.
ITA taking to the air brings the curtains down on Alitalia, an airline that's been in operation for over 74 years, reported Business Insider. Alitalia started out in 1946, a year after World War II ended, flying for the first time in 1947 within Italy before covering other European countries as well. It eventually started functioning on intercontinental routes to South America. Alitalia was also known for flying the Pope with the papal plane using the flight number AZ4000, also known as the Shepherd One.
Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini said the new company will be competitive in the national and international market. Italy’s Finance Minister said ITA will be “a quality carrier capable of competing on the international market,” which will be “solid and sustainable,” reported One Mile At A Time. National unions were critical of the deal and rejected ITA's plan, at the time, describing it as weak. The unions also pointed out that the employment commitments were unacceptable.
The pandemic has seen a string of workers' protests across the world. America itself is witnessing 'striketober' with workers across industries protesting for better wages and working conditions. “We were deemed essential workers right out of the gate,” said Chris Laursen, an employee of 19 years at Deere’s farm equipment factory in Ottumwa, Iowa. "But then they came with an offer that was appallingly low. It was a slap in the face of the workers who created all the wealth for them.”
Thomas Kochan, an MIT professor of industrial relations, says workers are more empowered than ever. “They’re empowered because of the labor shortage,” said Kochan. “These strikes could easily trigger more strike activity if several are successful or perceived to be successful.”