Italy's moderate metalworking union, UILM, says it is confident there will be no further Fiat plant closures for the time being, although it conceded there would be "lots of suffering" as the country grapples with its dire domestic economic situation.

Vehicle sales have plummeted 30% in Italy as the country struggles to find ways of easing its colossal debt and unemployment takes its toll, but UILM insists no more immediate blood-letting at Fiat will be needed, although the labour body did not rule out future measures.

"There will be no closures of plants in Italy, apart from Termini Imerese," UILM general secretary, Rocco Palombella, told just-auto from Rome. "This situation can last until 2013 - if this goes on after 2013 it means the situation for the auto market will get worse.

"Right now until 2013, there will be lots of suffering. It means the use of social tools or contracts of solidarity in order to keep workers linked to their plants and not to have redundancies - unfortunately this can mean less work."

However, despite his confidence of few redundancies at Fiat, the UILM general secretary noted there could be difficulties for Fiat's suppliers, which have already seen job losses in their sector.

The union preferred to deflect questions on comments reportedly made by Fiat CEO, Sergio Marchionne, that Fiat could increase production at struggling Italian plants to satiate demand in the US where alliance partner, Chrysler, is operating at full capacity, while it also maintained it would not be requesting any government help.

"We are not calling on the Italian government for financial help because they are forbidden by law," said Palombella. "The government cannot give help - the government is not in [a] condition to satisfy this request."

Despite the authorities' hands being tied - and the parlous state of Italy's economy hindering any possibility of financial aid - the UILM chief nonetheless said the Ministry of Economic Redevelopment was looking at ways to stimulate the auto sector, although details were not given.

Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti and a host of senior politicians met Marchionne in Rome last weekend to discuss the crisis and to see how exports could lift moribund home sales.

UILM - along with the FIM, FISMIC and UGL unions - as well as those from the Capi and Quadri white collar bodies - signed up to a Fiat productivity requirement for improved flexibility at the end of last year in exchange for a pay rise and bonus - provoking the fury of hardline union FIOM.

"We are more moderate than FIOM, of course," said Palombella. "Our union is a participative union, which is aware of the big crisis in Italy and Europe. We try to safeguard employment and the rights of workers."

Fiat has already closed its Termini Imerese plant, while the Pomigliano d'Arco site shut for five consecutive weeks earlier this year in response to the over-capacity endemic in Europe.

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