Oct 17, 2011
What does Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat, want? What are his true plans for the business and its workers? One thing is certain: he wants to have the right to decide alone, he and his Board of Directors, without being held to obligations of any sort, whether from the law or union contracts.
On October 3rd, Marchionne made a big announcement: Fiat will leave Confindustria, the Italian bosses confederation. In other words, Fiat won’t feel itself bound by agreements signed between the bosses’ organization and the Italian unions, and will in fact make its own laws.
Marchionne, in his Italian factories, had already imposed changes in working conditions that violate national bargaining agreements and even the law. He began with the Pomigliano factory near Naples, declaring that he would run the factory only if workers accepted total flexibility and renounced the banning of overtime. He also threatened that unions that didn’t agree to these conditions would be excluded from representing the workers.
After extorting acceptance from the workers, using the threat that their factory would close, he carried out the same operation in the Mirafiori plant in Turin, and then in the Bertone factory, also in Turin. In all three cases, the workers ended up working not for Fiat but for a “new company” created for the occasion so that Fiat could get rid of its prior obligations.
The start up of production at Mirafiori of a 4x4 for the U.S. market was announced and then withdrawn, then promised again, but in 2013. The Pomigliano factory still hasn’t started up, and another Fiat factory, Termini Imerese in Sicily, will be closed at the end of 2011.
These are the maneuvers of a man who, at the time he was appointed, was saluted as a modern captain of industry who would save Fiat. Certainly he will save the capital of the Agnelli family and big stockholders, after having put thousands of workers out into the street.
From Turin to Sicily, workers try to defend themselves as they can. At the gates of Fiat Mirafiori, which opens only a few days each month, the workers of two small rank-and-file unions have set up a tent to affirm that, whatever are Marchionne’s maneuvers and intentions, the workers must live, with full wages, not lowered pay coming from the unemployment funds, and a guaranteed job for the future. It’s through struggle against this industrial giant that workers can impose what they need.