Fiat and its four main unions have started negotiations in Turin this morning (23 December) in a bid to kick-start stalled progress concerning the Mirafiori plant.

A spokesman for the Fim union - traditionally accepted as a more moderate labour body - confirmed to just-auto from Italy that talks began a short while ago in Turin.

However, contrary to reports, the hard-line Fiom union is also attending the negotiations, marking at least a slight thaw in its hitherto hostile relations with Fiat.

"Fiom will attend the negotiations, a Fiom spokesman in Rome told just-auto. "My general feeling is they will reach an agreement about Mirafiori. We will be at the table and our purpose is to have real negotiations."

Details of sticking points remain unclear, but the Fiom spokesman indicated part of the discussions would centre on overtime hours worked at the North Italy plant. "The company has asked for some changes to the overtime picture," added the Fiom spokesman.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has said the unions had two months to agree to a contract for Mirafiori or he would take the EUR1bn (US$1.31bn) investment for the joint venture with Chrysler elsewhere.

The JV would produce large segment passenger cars and SUVs for the Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands. The new platform could result in 250,000-280,000 models being produced per year, with the potential for new jobs.

However, Fiom bristled at suggestions it might be subject to a timetable for Mirafiori. "Fiom does not accept any kind of ultimatum from Fiat - we want to have true negotiations," said the spokesman.

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