Rsu union elections held at Fiat Mirafiori plant

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In May 2003, elections to Rsu trade union representation bodies were held at Fiat's largest plant in Italy, the Mirafioiri site in Turin. Fiom-Cgil won the largest share of the vote, while Fim-Cisl came second (and first in the plant's important bodywork department).

The elections of members of unitary workplace union structure s (rappresentanze sindicali unitarie, Rsus) at the Fiat motor manufacturer's largest Italian plant at Mirafiori (Turin) took place on 6-8 May 2003, just as a draft new national collective agreement for the metalworking sector was being signed (IT0305204F). The elections should have taken place in June 2003, on the normal expiry of members' terms of office (IT9709211F). However, the Italian Federation of Metalworkers (Federazione impiegati operai metallurgici, Fiom), affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione generale italiana del lavoro, Cgil), asked for the elections to be brought forward close to the renewal of the national metalworking agreement in order to allow workers to express in their voting their assessment of the positions of the various trade union organisations, which had taken diverging positions in bargaining over the agreement.

The Rsu elections at the Mirafiori plant took place at a very delicate juncture. First, there was a profound division between Fiom-Cgil on one side and 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), during the negotiations over the national agreement, which ended with the former failing to sign the agreement. Second, the Mirafiori plant is in decline and is one of the sites most severely affected by the current crisis at Fiat (IT0212211F). From June 2000 to June 2003, the Mirafiori plant has seen a 45% reduction in personnel (from 27,350 to 15,090 workers), while production has fallen from 970,000 cars per year in 1991 to 500,000 in 1999-2000 and 305,000 in 2002. Now, that the Panda model has gone out of production, the plant produces only 170,000 cars per year.

Many observers thus considered the Rsu elections as an opportunity for workers at Mirafiori to evaluate the positions of the various trade union organisations over recent years. The workers themselves appeared to recognise the elections as important, as about 80% participated in the poll (with 9,942 valid votes out of 12,539 workers having the right to vote).

Fiom-Cgil proved to be the best-supported organisation with 31.1% of the votes, 1 percentage point more than in the last elections in 2000. Fim-Cisl increased its share of the vote by 4 percentage points over its 2000 result and obtained 25.3% of the votes, ranking second in the plant overall and first in the bodywork department, the plant's most important department. The Italian Federation of Metalworking and Allied Unions (Federazione Italiana Sindacati Metalmeccanici ed Industrie Collegate, Fismic), an independent trade union organisation which signed the sectoral metalworking agreement, ranked third with 18.4%, losing about 2 percentage points compared to 2000 (when it won 20.5%). Uilm-Uil ranked fourth with 16.6% (against 18.7% in 2000). The radical Cobas rank-and-file committees saw their share of the vote fall from 5.0% to 3.1%, while the General Workers’ Union (Unione generale del lavoro, Ugl), which is close to the Allenza Nazionale right-wing political party, recorded a 0.8 point increase, gaining 5.5% of the votes.

According to Claudio Stacchini of Fiom-Cgil's Turin branch, the Mirafiori elections were not a sort of 'referendum' on the controversial metalworking agreement but the 'start of a process aimed at resuming the representative role of the trade union'. According to Mario Scotti, the general secretary of Cisl's Piedmont organisation, the result of the elections 'not only rewards and repays Fim for all the efforts deployed, but also rebuts the accusations made after the signature of the agreement'. Some observers have stated that the more 'participative' unions have benefited to a greater extent from the elections than the more 'antagonistic' ones.

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