Fiat agrees deal on strikes and absence

 
City A.M. Reporter
CARMAKER Fiat won narrow backing from its workers for a groundbreaking contract that limits strikes and absenteeism in exchange for investment in Italy, unions said yesterday.

Workers in a referendum at Fiat’s historic but loss-making Mirafiori factory in Turin voted 54 per cent in favour of the new contract, a spokesman for the FIM union said.

Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who engineered the Italian carmaker’s 25 per cent stake in Chrysler and transformed Fiat from an ailing conglomerate, had threatened to deploy the cash abroad if workers rejected the changes.

The deal was approved by most unions at the plant but rejected by one of the more hard-line unions, Fiom. The deciding factor was support from white-collar workers, union spokesmen said.

“A 46 per cent ‘No’ vote seems tremendous to me. To make goodcars, you don’t need conflicts of this type,” Fiom Turin representative Giorio Airaudo told reporters yesterday.

Fiat’s top executives and Italian ministers said they were pleased with the outcome of the vote and hoped the deal would begin a new era in labour relations free of acrimony.

“Now we need to put controversies and contrasting positions behind us and face the challenges that we have before us in a constructive manner,” Fiat Chairman John Elkann said in a statement.

The contract is part of a Fiat-led unprecedented overhaul of Italian labour relations, which have been based on national deals rather than on a plant-by-plant basis.

If workers accept the new contract, the company has pledged to invest $1.3bn (£819m) to build new Alfa Romeo and Chrysler models at Mirafiori, Fiat’s oldest plant and a symbol of Italian industry.

More than 96 per cent of workers voted in the referendum on Thursday and Friday. The contract has already been agreed at loss-making plant Pomigliano.