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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Fiat to lay off 7,600 workers
Workers at Fiat's Termini Imerese plant
Unions have called a strike for Friday
The Italian car maker Fiat said it was planning to lay off more than a fifth of its workforce as part of a big restructuring plan designed to secure its future.

Unions reacted by calling a four-hour strike on Friday to protest about the cuts.

Workers at the company's Termini Imerese plant had already downed tools and marched in protest on Wednesday when Fiat was presenting its plans to union leaders.

Afterwards the company issued a statement saying it would place 5,000 car assembly workers and 600 component staff on a one year temporary lay-off scheme this December.

A further 2,000 employees would join the programme in July 2003. And another 500 would be redeployed ahead of their retirement, taking the total affected by the restructuring to 8,100.

Selling to GM

Fiat has also asked the government to grant "crisis status" for its auto division as well as some of its component units.

That would allow the company to by-pass strict labour laws.

Only one of Fiat's six car assembly plants across Italy will escape the cuts.

Many industry watchers suspect that the radical restructuring plan is designed to boost Fiat's value so that it can be sold to GM.

The US company already holds 20% of Fiat Auto, and the Italian firm holds an option that could require GM to buy the remaining 80% from 2004.

A 'necessary step'

Italy has traditionally been Fiat's largest market but its share of car sales has fallen sharply this year.

The firm's car division made a loss of more than 800m euros (506m; $792m) in the first half of 2002.

Umberto Agnelli, head of the Agnelli family's holding companies which control Fiat and whose grandfather founded the carmaker in 1899, said he was "very sad" about the job cuts but said the were a "necessary step".

Fiat's shares lost 5% on Wednesday to close at 8.35 euros.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Brian Barron reports from Italy
"Last minute reprieve in the form of government intervention seems unlikely"
Carl Ludvigson, former chief executive of Fiat US
"They (Fiat) are spreading the pain across the company"
Cecilia Brighi of the Italian Steelworkers Union
"The key problem is the overall strategy of Fiat"

Cars and strategies

Background
See also:

04 Oct 02 | Business
29 Jul 02 | Business
27 Jun 02 | Business
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10 Jun 02 | Business
20 May 02 | Business
14 May 02 | Business
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