Fiat has finally swallowed hard and taken the gamble of going with the majority of its unions concerning transfer of new Panda work from Poland to Italy.

The seemingly-intractable saga has been running for months while Fiat attempted to secure the backing of all its multi-lettered unions, namely CISL-FIM, UIL-UILM AND FISMIC to kick-start EUR700m (US$882m) of investment at the Pomigliano d'Arco plant.

But there is one glaring absence. The notable omission of FIOM - branded recently as "a sort of communist union" by Fiat - is in stark contrast to the more emollient noises emmanting from the four other labour organisations.

FIOM has been steadfast in its refusal to accept Fiat's requirement of new working practices in exchange for Panda investment at Pomigliano d'Arco, labelling the agreement with its co-unions and Fiat as "illegitimate and unacceptable."

Some 62% of the workforce at Pomigliano recently accepted Fiat's proposals, but FIOM argued that still left a sizeable chunk of staff who completely opposed the deal.

"We are against the blackmail by Fiat," said a FIOM spokesman to just-auto recently. "We say this because if you say yes [to the deal] the plant will go on and if you say no, the plant will close."

Fiat is taking quite a punt here. FIOM seems set four-square against any deal under the present wording and as Fiat's largest union, wields some considerable muscle.

But there are thousands of potential jobs at stake and the previous involvement of the Italian government would suggest the issue has taken on a national as well as local importance.

The one remaining question is what will be the reaction from Fiat's Polish workforce - will replacement work be found or will they too adopt some of the militancy of their Italian cousins?