The Spark

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

Fiat on the Offensive against Worker Rights

Jan 10, 2011

According to an agreement signed between Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, and the auto unions, break times are to be reduced, four shifts are to be established including a night shift working six days a week; and work hours can be expanded to 10 per day. The plant director can add 120 overtime hours per worker each year, plus an additional 80 hours after consulting with the unions. The first day of sickness will no longer be reimbursed.

This astonishing agreement was signed by nearly all the union confederations, with the notable exception of FIOM, the metal workers federation in Italy tied with the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and a few small, local unions that still exist in Italy.

But that is not all. The full application of the new agreement will not go into effect until 2012 when a “New Company” is to be formed between Fiat and the American auto company Chrysler. At that time, each individual worker must sign a contract with this “New Company,” renouncing certain rights, including the right to strike against overtime hours under the threat of being fired.

When the 2012 agreement goes into effect, Fiat will pull out of the Italian federation of companies, dumping all national agreements that exist to protect workers’ rights and unions. At that time, the only unions that will be recognized in Fiat are those signing the new agreement. No other unions will be recognized.

This model that Fiat wants to impose in all its factories indicates what all the bosses want to impose on all Italian workers. Such an agreement would nullify rights that have been recognized in various laws adopted after important battles by Italian workers in the 1970s.

This new agreement is part of a real campaign around the theme of “making Italian companies competitive”. The Italian bosses want to use the current economic crisis to gain a free hand against the workers. The unions are asked to go along with its demands, under penalty of being excluded from the “dialogue” ... and even of any representation rights. The press and nearly all political parities join in the chorus to accuse unions like FIOM of spouting an outdated ideology when they dare say that workers’ rights must be defended.

Marchionne and Fiat don’t bother with propaganda, going directly to blackmail. If workers won’t agree to all Fiat’s demands, Fiat won’t invest up to 20 billion euros (26 billion dollars) in Italy. The investments will go elsewhere. Fiat pretends it is losing money on its Italian operations!

This amounts to pressure and extortion – telling workers “if you want a job, you will have to agree to become a slave,” something the workers of the factory near Naples have already denounced. The agreement is to be voted on January 20, after which the workers of the Turin-Mirafiori plants will be laid off for almost a year while Fiat forms the New Company.

Unless the workers of Fiat begin now, along with all the workers of Italy, to make Marchionne and the rest of the bosses swallow their pretensions.