The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Workers of Fiat Face Bosses’ Blackmail

Jun 28, 2010

The following article was translated from the June 25 issue of Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle], journal of the revolutionary workers organization of that name active in France.

Fiat workers just voted, 36% “no,” with less than 60% “yes” among those eligible to vote. That’s the result of a referendum held among the 5,000 Fiat workers of the Pomigliano factory near Naples, Italy.

The proposed new agreement was pushed through by extortion, pure and simple. After Serge Marchionne, Fiat chief, announced the closing of the Fiat factory in Sicily, he said he would maintain production in the factory in Naples, after a long layoff there, only if workers accepted certain draconian measures.

The first point of the new contract is that the factory will run 24 hours a day, six days a week, with an alternating rotation of 18 shifts, with one day off shifting a day every week. Maintenance of the plant will be done also with rotating shifts, but on a seven-day-a-week basis. To avoid any down time in production, the 30 minutes of lunch time will be placed at the end of each shift, the other breaks will be reduced and overtime hours will be mandatory up to 80 hours a year, without any need for union approval when this overtime is scheduled. In the case of any production downtime, it is to be made up over the following six months through work during the scheduled break times or on days off.

Above all, Fiat wants something like a no-strike clause in the contract.

Fiat’s plan was supported by all the political forces of the country as well as by the union federations. Even the CGIL (General Confederation of Italy), the main Italian union, gave its support when its secretary, Eifani, announced his support, after a few minor modifications.

Fortunately, the metal workers section of this union federation spoke out against the proposed contract, declaring the June 22 referendum illegal and the results marred by a lot of cheating. A small independent union, the Slai-Cobas, took the same position. They were denounced by a government official as the people “obsessed with looking for conflict,” and by the head of the bosses’ confederation as the people who “seek to protect workers who abuse absence and sickness policies.” News commentators called workers of Pomigliano “lazy” and drug traffickers.

For Marchionne, the time when workers could strike against the bosses is finished. He wants complete freedom to impose his wishes on the workers.

But the bosses like Marchionne haven’t won yet, as the referendum in Pomigliano showed. And as workers in a Fiat plant in Turin showed. There, the workers got 80% to carry out a work stoppage in protest of this proposed agreement. Clearly workers see this new agreement is aimed also at them.

Marchionne thinks workers defending themselves is an anachronism. He’s wrong: It is the only possible future for workers.