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Fiat ready to raise Italian wages to German levels

CEO upbeat after Mirafiori voted Yes to contested plan

18 January, 14:22
Fiat ready to raise Italian wages to German levels (ANSA) - Rome, January 18 - Fiat is ready to raise the salaries of its Italian workers to German levels and share profits if they help reduce production costs, CEO Sergio Marchionne said after a key production plan for a Turin plant was approved.

Workers at the historic Mirafiori's plant at the weekend narrowly backed a hotly contested deal the carmaker had struck with moderate unions outside Italy's long-established system of nationally negotiated collective contracts.

Marchionne says factory-specific deals like it and a previous one for the Pomigliano d'Arco plant, near Naples, are needed to boost productivity at Italian plants in order to press ahead with plans to invest some 20 billion euros in Italy over the next five years. ''Let me improve the costs of using the plants and I'll raise the salaries,'' Marchionne said in an interview published in Tuesday's edition of Rome-based daily La Repubblica after 54% of Mirafiori workers backed the plan.

''We can go up to the level of Germany and France. I'm ready''.

He added that he would also like to introduce profit-sharing schemes for Fiat's Italian workers while stressing that ''we have to make profits (at the plants), before we can share them''.

The vote at the loss-making and traditionally militant Mirafiori factory was seen as a decisive test of Fiat's bid to revamp industrial relations in its homeland.

Marchionne had threatened to drop plans to invest one billion euros in Mirafiori to produce new models there if the deal were rejected.

The carmaker met fierce opposition from the left-wing CGIL union and its engineering workers' arm FIOM to both the Pomigliano and Mirafiori deals.

They see these agreements, which feature reductions in break times, increases in shifts, measures to cut absenteeism and limits on the ability to strike, as an attack on labour rights. Indeed CGIL chief Susanna Camusso had said the union is considering taking Fiat to court to have agreements nullified, while FIOM will stage a one-day strike on January 28 in protest.

photo: Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.