The March 23 Strike at FCA-FIAT in Italy

FCA (Fiat Chrysler) has announced weeks of shut-downs for most Italian factories in the next months, including office workers, because its market share in Europe shrank in the last months, and it is clear that it plans to shift more production to lower cost countries with the next new models.

 

Employment at FIAT in Italy was cut from 350,000 in the 1970s to 44,000 in 2003 and about 24,000 production workers in six plants in 2016.

Under the CEO Sergio Marchionne (as well as under his predecessor Cesare Romiti) FIAT has carried out a union-busting policy, first with the 23,000 layoffs in 1980, and then crushing the most militant unions, which were strong at the former Alfa Romeo plants of Arese (Milan) and Pomigliano (Naples): the former was closed, and at the latter hundreds of union activists were confined to a far away warehouse, while in all still working production plants work was sped up and a climate of fear was imposed. Divisions between militant trade unions contributed to weaken further workers’ ability to withstand capital’s offensive.

Recently, a group of shop stewards at different plants (Termoli, Melfi and Pomigliano) and belonging to different unions have formed a joint “self organizing” coordination in order to fight back against layoffs and obtain guarantees for the future, and have called a day of strike for March 23, 2018. The strike was supported by SI Cobas with a hundreds-strong picket at the Pomigliano plant, composed of local supporters, and warehouse workers organized with the union. A picket was needed for FCA workers to ditch the fear and stay out. At the Pomigliano plant workers are reprimanded by managers for taking a leaflet or stopping to talk with people distributing leaflets at the gates.

The picket, started at 5:00 a.m., and moved to an access road after a massive police deployment a few hours later, allowed talking to hundreds of workers; dozens joined the picket while others did not enter the plant, even though they were called to enter at the gates cleared by the police; others entered late after calls by their foremen and the promise that they would be paid the full day.

Even though it was still a minority of workers to strike, also at the Melfi and Termoli plants, hopefully March 23 marks the beginning of the recovery of the workers’ movement at FCA plants in Italy after many years. An extension of the rank-and-file coordinating committee to other plants and unions would help it to stand up.