ITALY AND BELGIUM
Autoworkers resist plant closings
Published Feb 11, 2010 11:32 PM
As in the U.S., autoworkers in Europe are confronted with a capitalist
restructuring agenda that involves plant closings and mass layoffs. Workers are
fighting back on more than one front.
On Feb. 3, Italian autoworkers staged a four-
hour nationwide strike against
Fiat at Termini
Imerese plant, which employs 1,400 workers
on the island of
Upon learning on Jan. 21 that General Motors’ Opel division would close
their assembly plant, union members in Antwerp, Belgium, blockaded the parking
lot and prevented new vehicles from leaving the premises. As of this writing,
round-the-clock picketing is still holding up vehicle transport.
The 2,600 workers at the Opel plant are outraged at GM’s decision to
close their plant later this year. Recently workers agreed to take pay cuts,
while the Belgian government assisted in the transatlantic GM bailout, to the
tune of half a billion euros. For 85 years GM has made profits off the backs of
the Antwerp workers.
The Labor Party of Belgium has launched a solidarity campaign, engaging in mass
distribution of cards and signs with the slogan, “Don’t touch my
job.” Thousands have signed an online petition in solidarity with the
Belgian GM workers. (www.solidarityforopelantwerp.be)
The Opel workers were inspired by the two-week blockade of Anheuser-Busch InBev
— maker of the world-famous Stella Artois beer — that succeeded in
halting that company’s plans to axe 10 percent of the workforce.
Meanwhile, on Feb. 3 Italian autoworkers staged a four-hour nationwide strike
to warn Fiat against closing the Termini Imerese plant, which employs 1,400
workers on the island of Sicily. This was the latest of a number of militant
protests intended to keep the Sicilian plant open.
“Termini Imerese should not be shut down,” said union leader Gianni
Rinaldini. “There is no overcapacity in Italy.” (Agence
France-Presse, Feb. 3)
The Feb. 3 shutdown was the first strike affecting all of Fiat’s 80,000
Italian employees since 2004 — the year Sergio Marchionne became CEO and
launched a “turnaround” plan to produce more vehicles with fewer
workers. As the new CEO of Chrysler, Marchionne is closing plants and reducing
the U.S. workforce as well.
Prompted by the determination of the Fiat workers to defend their right to
their jobs, the Italian government is considering ending federal subsidies to
the company unless it reverses the decision to close Termini Imerese.
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