Fiat’s announcement today (23 March) it is to freeze a proposed EUR500m (US$707m) investment into planned Maserati production at the former Bertone site in Turin is surely only the first salvo in yet another battle with its unions.
Well, one union. In a scene that is rapidly becoming a template, Fiat has pulled its cash because of the supposed intransigence of its hardline FIOM union that sees uncanny echoes in productivity requests to those at the Pomigliano d’Arco and Mirafiori plants.
FIOM has the absolute majority of the 2,300 members at the Officine Automobilistiche Grugliasco (formerly Corrozzeria Bertone) and of course Fiat knows it. Fiat must have equally known the default reaction from FIOM on being told the EUR500m would be dependent on significant productivity increases.
But this is puzzling. FIOM says talks only ended late last night and Fiat says it is now playing a waiting game – so much so similar with just about every other dispute between the two old protagonists – so why the rush from Fiat to pull its cash plug?
The issue, as ever it seems in Italy, is clouded in domestic politics. There appear to be mayoral elections going on in Fiat’s heartland of Turin with the former Bertone plant and its thousands of jobs making their way pretty sharpish to the top of the political agenda.
Such smoke and mirrors seem par for the course in Italy – particularly since Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne’s recent unscheduled trip to Rome following speculation Fiat could move some of its operations to Detroit. When it comes to Turin, any talk of changing the status quo is guranteed box office headlines.
One informed source close to the situation in Italy continued the acting theme telling just-auto: “If you are in a theatre, you may look [at] the actors, but you may not see what is happening in the back room of the theatre.”
And in an interview today with just-auto, FIOM seemed taken aback by Fiat’s assertion it had “refused” to agree to its request to have the same deal as nearby Mirafiori.
While conceding it did not want to sign an agreement similar to Mirafiori, the union said the meeting had only finished late last night – giving it barely time to communicate with its Turin office since.
Fiat has rushed to insist it will freeze its investment, but the actors have only just sauntered on stage, leaving the back room staff to thrash out the detail.