Italy’s metalworkers’ union FIOM-CGIL has hailed a labour court ruling against carmaker Fiat, which has been trying to eradicate all workplace opposition to its moves to drive down wages and conditions.
Judges told Italy’s largest industrial group to hire 145 workers at the company’s factory in Pomigliano, near Naples, that employs around 2,100 workers.
Fiat, the biggest transnational company based in Italy, excluded FIOM, the largest Italian metalworkers union, from the whole group employing 86,000 in Italy because the union did not sign an agreement which worsened working conditions, violated workers’ rights (including the right to strike) and cancelled all the existing company-level agreements and the national metalworkers agreement.
From 1 January 2012, workers were no longer be allowed to register their membership in their workplaces, because the company refused to check off their fees to Fiom (worth 1.5 million Euros). They were also not allowed to elect their representatives. FIOM members have been discriminated against and in some cases pushed to tear up their union cards in order to keep their jobs.
Fiat workers have been striking and demonstrating for their rights and for freedom of association, most recently on March 9.
The union filed 61 lawsuits in 20 courts across Italy.
Fiat, which has benefitted from billions in aid from Italy taxpayers over the years and had numerous plants built from public money, also threatened its workers and unions that it would shift production aboard if they didn’t accept poorer working conditions.
In effect it is doing this anyway: Fiat is cutting investments in Europe by half a billion euros this year. But it has maintained spending on vehicle development in the United States, where it owns 58.5% of carmaker Chrysler, which delivers higher profits than Fiat plants.
FIOM general secretary Maurizio Landini said the ruling on Fiat’s Pomigliano plant warrants government intervention.
Landini said the sentence proves that Fiat ‘violates the law and the constitution,’ and that the ‘government must act to ensure trade union freedoms and to protect Fiat worker jobs in Italy.”
Landini described the sentence as a ‘landmark ruling’ which ‘allows workers suffering discrimination – starting from those at Pomigliano – to have their rights acknowledged.
The union leader went on to argue that, in view of ‘Fiat’s failure to respect the law and to follow through on promised investments,’ the government had to intervene.
For the national secretary of Fiom, Airaudo George, ‘today the rights of workers of Pomigliano to freely choose their union and not be discriminated against or hired on the basis of their union card has been re-established. Today civil and democratic rights have been reaffirmed and Fiat has made a mistake and lost time that it could have devoted to new products and sales instead of trying to divide the unions and workers.’
CGIL leader, Susanna Camusso described the ruling as ‘good news’ that demonstrated how ‘Fiat’s actions were unacceptable’ as was an ‘authoritarian model that seeks to remove a union that opposes its organisational model.’
On 22 June 2010, workers at the Fiat factory in Pomigliano D’Arco (Naples) were asked to vote in a referendum on the new manufacturing agreement on the production of the Fiat Panda, which had been signed by the heads of the company and some of the unions.
However, the so-called ‘Pomigliano model’ met with strong opposition from the metalworkers union FIOM (which is part of the Italian General Labour Confederation, to which most of the workers in the factory belong) which had not signed the agreement, considering it to be outright blackmail on the part of the company, and that it infringed the CCNL (National Collective Labour Agreement). The agreement was approved by a majority of 63.4 % of the votes in the referendum, which showed that there was widespread dissatisfaction among the workers.
During 2011, Newco Fabbrica Italia Pomigliano, a new company 100 % controlled by Fiat, gradually started re-employing many redundant workers from the Fiat Group. Nevertheless, of the more than 800 workers re-employed to date, not one belongs to FIOM, despite the fact that, at the time of the referendum, more than 850 were members of this union.
Furthermore, the new agreement signed on 13 December 2011 by Fiat and the same unions which signed the Pomigliano agreement extended this production model to all the Group’s factories. As a result of this agreement, the Unitary Workplace Union Structure (RSU) has been replaced by a structure consisting of company‑specific union representatives (RSA), nominated by the unions which signed the agreement.
This means that FIOM, which did not sign the agreement, can no longer have a representative in any individual factory. This final important development not only violates the Italian Constitution but also appears to contravene two of the ILO’s international conventions: in particular, No 87 on the freedom of association and protection of the right to organise union action and No 98, which enshrines the right to organise and to collective bargaining.
Bearing in mind these considerations and in view of the precepts of Articles 12 (freedom of association) and 28 (right to negotiate and to collective action) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as well as international ILO Conventions Nos 87 and 89, can the Commission state:
Whether it believes that the conduct of Newco‑Fabbrica Italia Pomigliano towards FIOM and all its members could be considered discriminatory and anti-trade unionist?