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Fiat boss urges workers to accept sacrifices

July 9, 2010

By Guy Dinmore in Rome, Published: July 9 2010

Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne yesterday appealed to his Italian workforce to be ready for “sacrifices” and meet the challenges of globalisation by backing his €700m ($890m) investment plan to transfer production to Naples from Poland.

The chief executive of the Italian carmaker confirmed his commitment to produce the Panda at Fiat’s Pomigliano D’Arco plant outside Naples, in spite of failing to win a convincing endorsement of management’s demands for new work practices in a ballot of the factory’s 5,300 workers on June 22.

Mr Marchionne issued a long and frank letter to workers explaining what they were up against globally after a meeting at Fiat headquarters in Turin with union leaders who had backed his plan. FIOM, the largest union which had opposed management’s demands, was not invited.

Fiat’s management was openly disappointed that only 62 per cent of Pomigliano’s workforce had voted in favour of its plan, raising speculation that Italy’s biggest private employer would shut or downsize the plant and keep production of the Panda at Tychy in Poland.

Fiat is pressing ahead with its intention to close down its Termini Imerese plant in Sicily next year.

Mr Marchionne stressed his commitment to close what he called the competitive gap between Italy and abroad, lamenting the lack of foreign investment in Italy and the number of companies that had shut down or left the country in recent years.

“We didn’t choose the rules of international competition and none of us has the chance to change them, even if we don’t like them,” he wrote.

“The only thing we can choose is to stay in the game or be left outside.”

He called for “a big collective effort, a kind of social pact to share commitments, responsibilities and sacrifices” while appealing to his workers’ sense of patriotism to rebuild Italy for their children.

Massimo Brancato, FIOM leader in Naples, said the union had proposed a new accord but Fiat had rejected it. The union would continue to defend workers’ rights while protecting jobs for the city, he said.

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