Italy: Fiat workers spread their struggle

The FIAT workers’ battle has taken on a European dimension. A two hour European strike of FIAT group workers has been called for 16/12, against the programme of group `restructuring’, already underway.

In Italy, about 8,100 FIAT workers will lose their jobs, the majority of their workplaces being placed under `administration’, for which the first notifications have arrived. It is certain that a larger number of workers, currently in the so-called `induction’, will suffer a similar fate. The situation in Southern Italy is particularly dramatic, especially at the Sicilian plant in Termini Imerese, because of the very high unemployment in the region. In the last few days, the FIAT workers have taken part in many actions such as strikes and rail and road blockades which have had large demonstrations of solidarity from the working class of the areas where the FIAT factories are based and, in many cases, from the whole population.

On Monday 9th December, a change in FIAT management was announced: the top managers Fresco and Galatieri were replaced by Gavetti and Biondi, the latter particularly close to Berlusconi. This seems to clarify earlier statements against the FIAT management made by the prime minister. Supported by the governor of the Bank of Italy, Fazio, the four main creditors of the FIAT group protested almost immediately, and managed to keep Paolo Fresco in place, now with Franco Grande Stevens and Alessandro Barbieri, while Galatieri remains dismissed.

The plans of the new management have the same cuts as were originally planned and the administrators do not even wish to pull back from the plan of `administration’ and closures. The government, for its part, does not show signs of having serious proposals, while the provocations of Berlusconi continue incessantly. In Dortmund on the 12th, he, after having said last week that the workers could find jobs in the black economy, attacked the protests saying that he found it “absolutely intolerable that these workers obstruct their co-citizens, blocking motorways, railway stations and airports.’’

Meanwhile, the workers’ protests have continued with sit-ins and street blockades culminating in the general strike in the province of Cassino, on Tuesday 10th, where the Alleanza Nazionale senator, Tofani, who had gone to the demonstration, was chased away by the anger of the workers who saw in his presence a mockery, and in that of Turin, on Friday 13th, which saw the participation of huge layers of the city, quite apart from the strike, with a demonstration of at least 15,000 people in Milan, from Alfa d’Arese and from other industries in the area, on Thursday 12th.

The struggles in education have seen the mass resignation on Tuesday 10th of all of the rectors of Italian universities against the funding cuts, which will make it impossible to pay salaries. The students of many Italian cities have also mobilized. In Florence, for example, students have occupied the faculties of letters, political science and agriculture, against both the increase in fees and the threat of privatisation. For Monday 16th, a day of action is planned, in collaboration with lecturers, other workers and university students.

However, the whole public system of education is under attack, with cuts of tens of thousands of jobs predicted in the budget, as in the public service generally.

After the strike of the unions of the base in the public sector last week, the strike called by the confederated unions on Friday 13th had the support of about 95% of workers in the sector. A bad sign is, however, the initiative of minister Maroni, who has asked for a list of strikers in the ministry.

The list of actions planned also includes the four hour public transport strike in support of an inflation-linked rise, the reduction of working hours, compensation for laid-off workers, the right to strike and against the dismantling of local public transport.

It is certain that the struggle will move forward and intensify during the next week. A large part of the Italian working class is decisive and determined.

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December 2002