MILAN (Bloomberg) -- Fiat S.p.A.'s largest union protested in Rome on Saturday against CEO Sergio Marchionne's proposal to curb strikes and increase shifts at the company's Pomigliano d'Arco car factory near Naples in southern Italy.
Fiat is using the Pomigliano plant as a test case to win labor concessions that may become a watershed for Italian companies.
“Competition is not pursued by cutting salaries and rights,” and “it's not true that companies don't have social responsibility,” said Maurizio Landini, head of the FIOM Union. He called for a general strike in his speech.
Marchionne wants to improve productivity at Fiat's domestic plants, which lags that at the company's foreign factories, in exchange for shifting production of its Panda minicar from Poland to Pomigliano.
Fiat plans to invest 20 billion euros ($28 billion) through 2014 in Italy to improve plants and vehicle development if unions agree to reduce strikes and add shifts.
While a majority of workers at the Pomigliano plant approved the deal in June, more than a third of them voted against it, saying Marchionne's proposal violated their constitutional right to strike.
Marchionne has said he will proceed with the investment plan, called “Fabbrica Italia,” or “Italian factory,” only if unions agree to boost productivity in a new labor contract.
“We submitted counterproposals with regard to Pomigliano and we are still waiting for an answer,” Landini said.
The factory has a history of labor unrest and has the worst productivity of all five of Fiat's Italian plants, even taking into account slow demand for the Alfa Romeo models it currently builds.
Last year, Pomigliano built 35,000 units of the Alfa Romeo 147, 159 and GT coupe models.
Fiat plans to start building the new Panda there in late 2011, with annual production of 280,000 units in 2012.