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Europe

Fiat workers vote 'yes' on groundbreaking labor deal

Workers at Fiat's historic Mirafiori factory have backed a landmark deal that will save the loss-making plant and could transform labor relations in Italy.

A man outside the Mirafori plant

Mirafiori is Fiat's oldest plant and a symbol of Italian industry

The Italian automaker Fiat won support from a thin majority of workers at a key factory for a contract that limits strikes and absenteeism in exchange for 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) investment in Italy, unions said on Saturday.

Some 54 percent of workers vote in favor of new conditions. Over 94 percent of workers at the Mirafiori plant in Turin cast ballots.

The vote is part of an unprecedented overhaul of Italian labor relations, which up until now have been based on national deals rather than on a plant-by-plant basis.

Fiat President John Elkann said workers had the "total support" of the company's founding Agnelli family and called on them to "confront the challenges to come in a constructive manner."

A man sitting outside the Turin factory

White-collar employees voted for the deal while blue-collared workers were against it

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne had threatened to move production abroad from the Mirafiori plant, which has been an integral part of Fiat for over 70 years, if the workers rejected the changes.

A big deal

The deal also sparked debate on a national level, with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stating earlier this week that Italian companies "would have good reason" to pull production out of Italy if the proposal was voted down.

Left-wing FIOM metalworkers union campaigned against the deal they said weakened Italy's system of national contracts, but other unions backed it as encouraging investment.

With the "yes" result, Fiat which owns a 25 per cent stake in Chrysler, plans to build Jeep-brand vehicles of the US carmaker at Mirafiori, as well as Alfa Romeo models.

Fiat is Italy's biggest private sector employer, with over 80,000 people.

Author: Sarah Harman (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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