Workers vote on bargaining platform for Fiat Group agreement

In late October 2008, a ballot was held among Fiat Group workers on the bargaining platform for the renewal of the group’s complementary agreement for the next four years. Although the negotiations are taking place during a difficult period for the automobile industry amid the global economic crisis, the trade unions argue that margins still exist for a pay increase, given that Fiat recorded its largest ever net profit in 2008. The unions believe that wage increases will help to overcome the crisis.

On 28–30 October, workers of the Fiat Group took part in a ballot on the bargaining platform for the renewal of the group’s complementary agreement for the period 2009–2012. The trade unions involved include the Italian Federation of White and Blue-collar Metalworkers (Federazione Impiegati Operai Metallurgici, Fiom-Cgil), the Italian Metalworkers’ Federation (Federazione Italiana Metalmeccanici, Fim-Cisl) and the Italian Metalworkers’ Union (Unione Italiana Lavoratori Metalmeccanici, Uilm-Uil). The unions have been preparing for these negotiations at a time when the automobile industry is undergoing a difficult period, in light of the current global economic downturn.

Crisis in automobile industry

The trade unions are aware of the difficulties being faced by the automobile industry throughout Europe: in fact, the preamble to the bargaining platform focuses on the current economic crisis. Despite the current crisis in the industry, however, Fiat has achieved positive economic results in the last two years. For example, in 2008, Fiat recorded net profits of about €2 billion, representing the largest profit margin ever for the company. On this basis, the trade unions argue that the current difficulties in the economy should not impact on Fiat employees. In fact, the trade unions argue that the margins still exist for wage increases and that such increases will be the key to overcoming the crisis.

The company, for its part, has not yet announced its growth target for 2009, and it has had to place workers on the wages guarantee fund (Cassa Integrazione Guadagni, CIG) at several of the group’s manufacturing plants. Fiat planned that, in November 2008, its plants at Termini Imerese on the northern coast of Sicily and Pomigliano d’Arco in the Campania region of southern Italy would introduce a scheme where workers would work one week and then alternate with three weeks of placement on the wages guarantee fund. The company also planned to close the Mirafiori plant in Turin in northern Italy, the largest facility of the group, for two weeks in November. These decisions were partly explained by the fact that, in October, new car registrations in Italy fell by 19%, a trend replicated in other European countries, with a resulting negative impact on exports.

Provisions of bargaining platform

The trade unions’ bargaining platform is based on the assumption that incomes should be supported in order to boost consumer spending, and thus counter the fall in demand affecting the automobile industry. The economic crisis is the argument also put forward by the President of the Fiat Group, Luca Cordero de Montezemolo, to explain the company’s use of the wages guarantee fund.

The main points of the bargaining platform relate to the following areas:

  • performance-related pay – the unions want the performance bonus to be linked to specific indicators of profitability, productivity and quality of work for an overall amount of €2,100 paid over four years, and to which atypical workers will also be entitled;
  • internationalisation – the trade unions request that the Fiat Group starts negotiations for the creation of an International Framework Agreement (IFA) (IT0810029I);
  • industrial relations – the trade unions propose a reform of the current workforce participation system (IT9704204F) through the suitable training of committee members and the introduction of electronic notice boards to develop communications between the unitary workplace union structure (rappresentanza sindacale unitaria, RSU) and workers;
  • work organisation – the platform calls for a joint definition of the procedures regarding World Class Manufacturing (WCM) and metrics (timescales and methods) that fulfil the criteria of transparency, communication, control and the protection of workers’ health, as recommended by the trade unions;
  • professional status – the trade unions demand that the job classification of all professional categories of workers, including blue-collar and white-collar workers, be verified every two years by a committee set up at plant level;
  • blue-collar and white-collar workers – the platform calls for the implementation at company level of the provisions on equal opportunities for blue-collar and white-collar workers set out in the last national collective agreement in the metalworking sector (IT0802039I). In particular, the trade unions request payment of overtime for sixth and seventh-level clerical staff, and an increase of €85 for workers with tasks that are dependent on production line activities;
  • health and safety – the trade unions request the appointment of an on-site workers’ safety representative;
  • labour market – the platform demands that apprenticeship contracts should be confirmed as the primary means of labour market entry for young people and that precarious workers should be given preference when new staff are being hired;
  • working hours – the trade unions call for greater flexibility regarding work starting and/or finishing times, increased use of part-time work, and a further increment – with respect to the national collective agreement – for weekend work.

Reaction of social partners

The Head of Fiom-Cgil’s automotive section, Enzo Masini, is optimistic that the pay increases will be awarded: ‘Fiat has made record profits this year: why shouldn’t the benefits be shared with the workers?’ According to the General Secretary of Uilm-Uil, Antonino Regazzi, ‘the platform has been drawn up at a less dramatic moment for the economy’, but the trade unions are prepared to accept ‘the close link between an increase in wages and increase in productivity’ often insisted on by the Confederation of Italian Industry (Confederazione Generale dell’Industria Italiana, Confindustria) and the Italian Federation of Metalworking Industries (Federazione Sindacale dell’Industria Metalmeccanica Italiana, Federmeccanica). No official reaction by Fiat has yet been reported.

Cristina Tajani, Fondazione Regionale Pietro Seveso

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