Fiat Workers in Italy Strike Against Plant Shutdown

The government is 'evaluating' the possibility of halting all state incentives in 2010.

To protest the planned shutdown of a car plant in Sicily, Fiat workers throughout Italy went on strike on Feb. 3. A Fiat spokesman said 14% of the 32,000 workers on duty on Wednesday morning took part in the four-hour strike against the planned shutdown at the end of 2011 of Termini Imerese, a plant in Sicily that employs 1,400 workers.

Local representatives of the Fiom labor union -- the largest within Fiat -- said the strike involved 80% of workers in Termini Imerese and between 50% and 70% of workers at the Mirafiori plant in northern Italy.

Fiat announced in June its decision to shut down the Sicilian plant and chief executive Sergio Marchionne confirmed it in January in spite of the controversy the shutdown caused among labor unions and politicians.

"Termini Imerese should not be shut down. There is no overcapacity in Italy," said the leader of Fiom, Gianni Rinaldini, Ansa news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Economic Development Minister Claudio Scajola said the government was "evaluating" the possibility of halting all state incentives in 2010, including those in the auto sector that are crucial for Fiat.

The minister's comments were seen by sector experts as a possible warning to the carmaker over the planned shutdown.

Fiat also recently announced it would halt production at all Italian plants for two weeks starting on February 22 because of a fall in new car orders, a measure that will place 30,000 workers on unemployment benefits.

Marchionne said in December that Fiat would increase production in Italy from 650,000 to 1 million vehicles over the next few years, mainly by moving production of the Panda, one of its best selling models, from Poland to Italy.

The announcement failed to reassure workers, who believe Marchionne, now also the chief executive of Chrysler, is focusing attention and resources in reviving the troubled U.S. carmaker. "Marchionne's interests have moved to the U.S., to Chrysler, and Italian factories are increasingly marginalized," explained Vittorio De Martino, a representative of the Fiom labor union.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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