Talks have started today (8 June) between Fiat and its largest union FIOM concerning productivity improvements, although the labour organisation has expressed pessimism concerning the outcome.

The negotiations are crucial in that they could secure a transfer of work on the new Panda from Fiat’s Polish plant to its Pomigliano d’Arco factory in Italy with the potential to produce up to 300,000 units a year from 40,000 currently.

“We made no progress this morning but it is not a typical bargaining case, in many respects it is not typical,” a FIOM spokesman in Turin told just-auto.

“I am not confident of progress, it is difficult to understand what will happen.”

Fiat has already met several of its other unions, notably FIM, ULIM, FISMIC and UGL, but FIOM, for reasons that remain unclear, was not able to sit round the table until today.

Fiat is asking its unions for a similar level of flexibility common in its Polish site with changes in weekend working, for example. The Italian manufacturer maintains working practices have not changed since the 1980s.

However, should Fiat not be satisfied with union negotiations, it has suggested it will be forced to site Panda production elsewhere.

“Time is running out”, said Sergio Marchionne recently.

“Protracted negotiations with the unions have already resulted in a delay in the investment necessary to begin production. In the absence of an agreement that offers adequate guarantees, reassessment of the project and consideration of other alternatives for production of the future Panda may be unavoidable.”

Fiat was not immediately available for comment.