MILAN May 27 (Reuters) - Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy's biggest retail bank, has told unions it could merge or close nearly one fifth of its Italian branches to cut costs, a union leader said on Sunday.
Nicola Manna of the Sinfub union said Intesa's executives had raised the prospect of cutting 1,000 branches - more than double the 400 branches expected to be eliminated by the bank's 2011-13 business plan - at a meeting with unions last week.
Intesa, which declined to comment, has an Italian network of 5,600 branches.
Manna said the unions would meet Intesa's CEO Enrico Cucchiani in Rome on Wednesday to discuss the issue and could resort to a strike if their demands were not heeded.
Intesa is seeking to cut costs, increase working hours flexibility and boost profit at a time when Italian and European lenders are under pressure to streamline operations and sell assets to boost their capital base. (Reporting By Silvia Aloisi; Editing by David Cowell)