General strike held in metalworking

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On 15 November 2002, Italian metalworkers' trade unions organised a one-day general strike across the sector. The action focused on supporting negotiations over the restructuring plan and large-scale job losses announced at the Fiat auto group and at putting pressure on the government to draw up a national industrial policy, at a time when the Italian metalworking sector is experiencing major problems.

On 15 November 2002, the three main metalworkers' trade unions - the Italian Federation of Metalworkers (Federazione Impiegati Operai Metallurgici, Fiom), affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), the Italian Metal-Mechanical Federation (Federazione italiana metalmeccanici, Fim), affiliated to the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl), and the Union of Italian Metal-Mechanical Workers (Unione Italiana Lavoratori Metalmeccanici, Uilm), affiliated to the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil) - held a one-day general strike. The action focused both on the current crisis at the Fiat industrial group's automobile division and the major job losses entailed by the company consequent restructuring plan (IT0210303F), and also on the wider problems of the sector, with information technology (IT) and telecommunications companies announcing restructuring plans involving large-scale workforce reductions. The key issues were thus:

  • the crisis at Fiat Auto and the union's rejection of the restructuring programme presented by the company (IT0210303f) which they believe will 'downsize the automobile sector in Italy with serious drawbacks for the economy, industrial development and employment'; and
  • the crisis in IT and telecommunications and other parts of the metalworking industry which, as at Fiat, jeopardise thousands of jobs.

The unions called on the government and the public institutions to address the crisis by launching a debate on Italian industrial policy. According to the unions, this debate should result in the definition of industrial strategies based on the development of technological and professional capacities allowing Italian industries to compete on international markets.

The strike on 15 November included demonstrations in many cities, pickets in front of plants involved in restructuring plans and meetings with the institutional actors. According to the unions, the strike was very successful with almost all metalworkers taking part. Giorgio Caprioli, the general secretary of Fim-Cisl, stated that the success of the strike was the most appropriate answer to the Fiat group's actions and highlighted the 'solidarity and the maturity of all metalworkers'.

Negotiations on the Fiat situation continued on 25 November, when trade unions, the government and the company took two important decisions during a meeting called by the cabinet. Fiat decided to wait until 5 December 2002 before placing 5,600 workers on the Wages Guarantee Fund (Cassa integrazione guadagni) - one of the 'social shock absorber' measures that cushion the effects of restructuring and redundancies (IT9802319F) - as requested by the trade unions, and decided to open, on 27 November, extended negotiations on its restructuring plan and on the future of the 8,100 workers scheduled for redundancy.

Trade unions took a positive view of these decisions, but are still calling for the Fiat restructuring plan to be modified. Guglielmo Epifani, general secretary of Cgil, said that 'the real fight starts now. The industrial plan must be changed.' Savino Pezzotta, general secretary of Cisl, saw a gleam of hope, stating that 'now we have 10 days to change the plan.' Luigi Angeletti, general secretary of Uil, stated that a step forward had been taken but that 'the crisis of the company is still unresolved.'

During the Fiat negotiations the trade unions will present a platform calling for:

  1. the use of 'solidarity contracts ' (contratti di solidarietà - whereby workers accept a cut in working hours and pay) and recourse to the Wages Guarantee Fund on a rotation basis, instead of the envisaged traditional full use of the Fund for certain workers (ie whereby they cease work completely) and of 'mobility' measures;
  2. reopening of the Termini Imerese plant in Sicily and the drafting of a new production plan to guarantee the future of the other plants involved in the restructuring plan, such as Arese (Milan), Cassino (Frosinone) and Mirafiori (Turin); and
  3. definition of a new restructuring plan and of public interventions aimed at supporting the development of the auto division.

On 26 November 2002, about 20,000 workers from Fiat Auto and associated companies took part in a demonstration in Rome.

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