Automaker Fiat not to leave Italy, says industry minister

Government will fight to keep producer in the country

Automaker Fiat not to leave Italy, says industry minister

Turin, July 25 - Auto giant Fiat will not pull its production from Italy, despite previous, thinly-veiled threats to do so, Industry Minister Flavio Zanonato said on Thursday. Zanonato said that the automaker's CEO Sergio Marchionne showed "availability to deal with the issues to keep Fiat on Italy". "The auto industry needs to recover...and I will fight to keep Fiat in the country," Zanonato said. On Tuesday, Fiat said that a court battle it lost with the left-wing FIOM trade union could have an impact "on its industrial strategies in Italy". What was seen as a threat to downsize production or move it out of Italy came after the Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month in favor of FIOM, the metalworkers' arm of Italy's biggest trade-union Confederation, CGIL, in its petition against being excluded from Fiat's company union representation body (RSA) for not having signed labour agreements. Fiat failed to convince the court it could do this on the basis of article 19 of the 1970 workers statute. But the Constitutional Court said in a statement that it considered illegitimate the part of the article that said unions who did not sign the collective agreements applied at a companies' plants could be excluded from RSAs, even if they had taken part in the negotiations. FIOM has been engaged in a series of bitter fights with Fiat in recent years. The union successfully petitioned last year for Fiat to hire 19 of its members at its Pomigliano d'Arco factory near Naples. The carmaker did not take on any of its former FIOM workers when it set up a special subsidiary to run the Pomigliano plant in 2010 after a dispute with the union over the flexible labour practices it wanted to implement there. In February Fiat told 18 of the workers to stay at home, saying they would still receive their salaries - the other member of the 19 was on leave of absence anyway for political activities. This prompted FIOM to report the issue to prosecutors, who have opened the probe in the case for alleged discrimination. "This initiative is the umpteenth expression of an unprecedented judiciary offensive directed by FIOM against Fiat, for more than two years, by filing, in connection with the sole issue of the enjoyment of the 'union rights', 62 lawsuits," the carmaker said in a statement at the time. In January Fiat announced that the special subsidiary set up to run Pomigliano, where Fiat builds the newest version of its Panda sub-compact, would be wound down and that control of the factory would return to the mother company.

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