New Maserati could be only brief respite for Fiat workers
MILAN (Reuters) -- Workers at Fiat's Grugliasco plant outside Turin are poised to return to their jobs in September to start building a sleek Maserati Quattroporte model, but colleagues elsewhere may not be so fortunate.
The plant has been re-tooled for the new Maserati. "Construction work at the plant is almost finished and the first workers could start coming back in September," said Margot Cagliero, who represents metalworkers at Grugliasco for the FIM labor union. "Production should start in November."
Slow car sales in southern Europe, however, have forced Fiat to lay off workers temporarily and idle plants elsewhere.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's pledge to update the market on the automaker's investment plans on Oct. 30 has unions concerned that the company may be preparing to postpone investment or even shut a plant.
While Fiat's Chrysler business in the United States is profitable, Fiat is losing money in Europe like most other mass-market manufacturers.
At Fiat's Melfi plant in the Basilicata region, where the Punto subcompact is made, workers are worried that the replacement for the Punto will be delayed until 2015. The new Punto has already been pushed back to early 2014 because of the weak car market and is now on hold for the review of Fiat's investment plans.
"The only thing for certain about car production in this region is that it's uncertain," said Giuseppe Giordano, the metalworkers' representative for the UGL union, who called on the regional government of Basilicata to get involved.
A Fiat spokesman said the company will disclose its plans for the Punto on Oct. 30.
At both Melfi and Cassino, where the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Fiat Bravo and Lancia Delta models are made, Fiat will continue to send workers home for two days a month throughout the autumn.
"We met with Fiat and the temporary layoffs will continue, but the situation from now until the end of the year is not expected to get any worse," said Mario Spigola, provincial chief of FIM, referring to Cassino.
At Mirafiori, Fiat plans to start making a small Fiat-branded sports utility vehicle (SUV) at the end of 2013 and a small Jeep SUV in the second quarter of 2014. Work on installing the production lines has not begun and the company has not given a date for when the lines could be installed.
At the Pomigliano factory, workers are due to return to work on August 31 to resume production of the Fiat Panda. But there is talk at the plant that Fiat will ask for temporary layoffs in the autumn.
"There has been a rumor going around that Fiat could ask to prolong the temporary layoffs in September because of weak market demand, but we don't have any information about this yet." said Giuseppe Terracino, secretary general of FIM-CISL in Naples. "We're waiting."
The company is waiting to see how orders for the Panda shape up in September before deciding whether to slow production at Pomigliano in the autumn.