Travel in Italy disrupted by new rail and airport strikes

Lauren Arena

Travellers in Italy are set to face disruption to their journeys on Thursday (13 July) and Saturday (15 July) due to a series of strikes by railway workers and airport baggage handlers as well as pilots and flight attendants at Malta Air and Vueling.

Trains across the country came to a 12-hour stop on Thursday (from 3am to 3pm) following a nation-wide strike by workers at Italo and state-owned rail operator Trenitalia.

The action, called jointly by unions Filt Cgil, Fit Cisl, Uiltrasporti, Ugl Ferrovieri, Orsa Ferrovie and Fast Confsal, is part of an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.

The stoppage was initially called for 24 hours but was halved on Wednesday after Italy’s minister for transport and infrastructure, Matteo Salvini, stepped in with an injunction. Salvini stated it would be “unthinkable” to leave travellers and commuters “on the street” during a summer heatwave as temperatures across the country are set to reach 35 degrees on Thursday.

As per Italian law, Trenitalia will continue to operate minimum levels of essential services during the strike, however the operator has warned of extended delays and cancellations even after the strike ends. Inconveniences are expected for high-speed and regional trains. In Milan, buses will replace trains to Malpensa Airport during the strike.

Travel disruption is also expected at Italian airports on Saturday as baggage handlers prepare for an eight-hour strike (from 10am to 6pm). This will be compounded by additional strike action by pilots at Malta Air, who will stop work for four hours (from 12pm to 4pm) and by pilots and flight attendants at low-cost carrier Vueling, who will also walk off the job for eight hours (from 10am to 6pm) on Saturday.

In a pre-emptive move to minimise disruption, Italian flag carrier Ita Airways has already cancelled 133 national and international flights scheduled for Saturday.

The carrier said it is currently rebooking flights for “the largest possible number” of affected travellers, with 40 per cent likely to travel on the same day. Travellers affected by the strike will be able to change their booking without any penalty. Refunds can also be requested for flights that have been cancelled or delayed by more than five hours, according to the carrier.

Unions representing crew and ground handing workers – Filt Cgil, Uiltrasporti and Ugl Trasporto Aereo – jointly called the labour action following the signing of “a totally unsatisfactory agreement” for pilots and as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions and for all members.

Filt CGIL general secretary, Stefano Malorgio, has hit back at the government’s attempt to minimise disruption with a last-minute injunction, labelling the move “shameful, wrong and illegitimate”.

“The abstentions from work have been declared according to the laws in force, we will evaluate in legal proceedings how to respond to the initiative to compress the constitutional right to strike in rail transport,” he said in a statement.

Malorgio added that trains and flights have already been cancelled in anticipation of the strikes and therefore “inconvenience to travellers will not be avoided”.

Courtesy: businesstravelnewseurope