Sunday, 29 August 2010

Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road


(hexodus, Three Yugos)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - "You cannot set the basis of the future by thinking that there is still a struggle between capital and work, owners and workers", explained FIAT CEO Sergio Marchionne during a public speech in Rimini this week (1).

The statement came at the climax of a debate over the case of three FIAT workers who had been fired in July on grounds of sabotage and were then prevented from actively returning to work, in spite of having been reinstated by the court of Melfi (2).

FIAT - whose sales last month fell by 32% in Europe - is desperately trying to establish a full time production system in Italy, in order to increase competitiveness on its main and less proficient market. This approach, however, happens to be extremely vulnerable to strikes.

Some observers actually wonder whether FIAT is simply looking for a pretext to dismantle Italian plants and move production to other cheaper European countries, such as Serbia (3).

FIAT is actually stuck in the middle between two paradigms which are poles apart. From 2004 to 2009, the car industry based in Turin seemed to head for the German paradigm (4), where workers and trade unions take part in drawing strategic decisions while innovation and high profit vehicles allow higher wages and better working conditions.

After taking over Chrysler in 2009, however, Mr Marchionne showed to prefer the American paradigm, where workers are supposed to accept any top-down corporate strategy to keep some sort of internal welfare and hold company shares as a relevant integration of their salary (5).

Even though denying social conflict, FIAT is instead taking its naturally disruptive role in it.

The real problem is that the conflict lacks the arbiter: Italy has no Minister for Economic Development since May, when Claudio Scajola handed in his rather tragicomic resignation.

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(1) "Non è possibile gettare le basi del domani continuando a pensare che ci sia una lotta tra 'capitale' e 'lavoro', tra 'padroni' e 'operai'". Sergio Marchionne, "Stop alla lotta tra padroni e operai", lastampa.it, August 27th 2010.

(2)  As explained in a press release by FIAT Group, the company is actually waiting for the Court of Appeal to reverse the first sentence: "The company, confident that the Court of Melfi will successfully establish the truth, reaffirms its belief that the actions adopted in relation to the three workers are legitimate and that at the hearing set for the 6th of October it will be able to fully demonstrate that the actions of the three strikers constituted a willful and protracted obstruction of production that was illegal and did not constitute the legitimate exercise of the right to strike" ("Statement from SATA", fiatgroup.com, August 24th 2010). For a full description of the case, read "Melfi, reintegrati gli operai licenziati", repubblica.it, August 10th 2010.

(3) Luciano Gallino ("Cosa vuole il Lingotto", repubblica.it, August 11th 2010) and Gad Lerner ("Il diktat di Marchionne", repubblica.it, August 24th 2010). 

(4) An interesting analysis of the German and the American paradgim in relation to FIAT was made by Massimo Mucchetti, "Ecco dove c'è da imparare. La lezione di tedeschi e americani", Il Corriere della Sera, August 25th 2010.

(5) Giuseppe Berta recently outlined the main characters of the American paradigm, ofter referring to change management at FIAT-Chrysler, in three articles published by Il Sole 24 ORE:
  • "Marchionne a tappe forzate", sole24ore.it, August 12th 2010
  • "I nuovi modelli di management alla scuola di Detroit", ilsole24ore.it, August 20th 2010
  • "Il sindacalista con vista sul futuro", ilsole24ore.it, August 26th 2010

Related articles in Italian
  • Fausto Bertinotti, "La rivoluzione reazionaria di Marchionne", ilmanifesto.it, August 6th 2010
  • Romano Prodi, "Auto, l'innovazione vera sfida da vincere", Il Messaggero, August 6th 2010
  • Giorgio Cremaschi, "Il regime di Marchionne e Confindustria", Liberazione, August 14th 2010
  • Luciano Gallino, "Lotta di classe", repubblica.it, August 22nd 2010
  • Paolo Griseri, "'Così Marchionne danneggia l'azienda. Pronti a ricucire ma sui diritti non cediamo'", interview with Guglielmo Epifani, repubblica.it, August 23rd 2010
  • Franco Debenedetti, "Senza tregua non c'è crescita", ilsole24ore.com, August 24th 2010
  • Paolo Griseri, "I tre nodi di Marchionne", repubblica.it, August 25th 2010
  • Paolo Griseri, "La metamorfosi di Marchionne. Dall'elogio dell'etica all'Ok Corral", repubblica.it, August 26th 2010
  • Gad Lerner, "Sergio, il marziano tra Hegel e Pavese", repubblica.it, August 27th 2010

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