Fiat, its unions and the Italian government are sitting down today (11 June) in a mammoth negotiating session to thrash out differences concerning the future of its plants at Pomigliano d'Arco and Termini Imerese.

This morning's meeting will be at the Italian economics ministry in Rome where investment arm Invitalia will put forward a series of initiatives designed to save the Lancis Ypsilon Termini Imerese plant on Sicily.

"We are not optimistic and not pessimistic," a spokesman from Fiat's largest union FIOM in Rome told just-auto. "[However] we are not very confident about the ability of Invitalia to find important investors but we will see."

Previous discussions had centred on up to 14 possible investors taking an interest in the plant, although Fiat's several unions have expressed a preference for those with an automotive background.

The Italian government has previously indicated that up to EUR450m (US$545m) could be provided as a rescue package for the plant with EUR100m from central funds and up to EUR350m from the Sicilian authorities.

Further negotiations are slated for this afternoon to discuss the Pomigliano d'Arco plant's future, although these discussions encompass wide-ranging working practice modifications to boost productivity.

Fiat is making a direct link with the productivity improvements in order to secure a transfer of work on the new Panda from its Polish plant to Pomigliano d'Arco. The automaker is dangling the carrot of increasing the site's output from 40,000 vehicles now to 300,000 a year.

As well as FIOM, the FIM, CIGL and UILM unions will be at the meeting this afternoon in Rome's Confindustria premises.

However, these negotiations look likely to be far more contentious than the Termini Imerese discussions, as the unions appear to have adopted a more entrenched position on new working conditions, which could require more shift flexibility.

"We are not near an agreement for Pomigliano D'Arco because all the unions say more or less the same thing," said the FIOM spokesman.

"The metalworkers' unions say to the company 'you have to change your requirements' because the text the company has given to the union is take it or leave it."

Despite the pessimistic position of FIOM, the labour organisation conceded "there is room for compromise if both sides looked for it," in order to produce more vehicles "in competitive conditions."

Fiat is asking its unions for a similar level of flexibility common in its Polish site with changes in weekend working, for example. The automaker's CEO Sergio Marchionne has said if talks with the unions do not proceed satisfactorily, Fiat could base Panda production elsewhere.

It is unclear whether today will resolve either issue on the table although FIOM said Fiat had indicated it was the last day.

However, a Fiat spokeswoman told just-auto it would take stock at the end of this afternoon, with the possibility that negotiations could resume on Monday.