Metal workers stage massive protest in Rome and walkout at Fiat plants

Agence France Press, Channel News Asia, 7 November 2003

ROME: More than 200,000 metal workers took to the streets of Rome as they pressed their demands for a new contract, union officials said.

The leftist Italian Federation of Metal Workers (FIOM) said between 40 and 50 percent of the workers at carmaker Fiat's main plant in Turin heeded a call for an eight-hour strike. But Fiat management said only about 17 percent of the company's workers joined the stoppage.

“We are more than 200,000,” the federation said referring to the protest in Rome, which brought workers from all over the country.

The federation, which is affiliated with the powerful Italian General Labor Confederation, represents about half the workers in the metal and mechanical sectors.

It opposes earlier agreements signed by two smaller labor organizations, the Catholic-inspired Federation of Mechanical Industries, and the moderate Italian Union of Metal-Mechanical Workers.

Those union organizations, which opposed Friday's protest movement, agreed on a 4.5 percent pay increase.

The FIOM, which is in a strong position because of nearly full employment in the Bologna region, has already opened a breach in the accord signed by the rival unions by reaching individual deals at some 2,000 companies pending a global agreement for the entire sector.

“We demand an 8.5 percent increase,” said Leonardo Mazzotto, secretary general of the FIOM branch in the northern city of Padua. He said this would include a real increase of 1.5 percent plus compensation for inflation in 2001 and 2002, for a total of 135 euros a month.

Gianni Rinaldini, overall secretary general of the FIOM, said the federation would keep up the pressure.

“Let no one make any illusions that we have finished with the demonstration today,” he said. “We have decided on another eight-hour strike to extend the conflict.”