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EDITIONS
Friday, 11 October, 2002, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Fiat protests continue
Protesting Fiat worker
Many workers will find it tough to find a new job
Fiat workers in Italy have continued to stage country-wide strikes in protest at the car maker's plan to cut 8,100 jobs, or 20% of its workforce.

Fiat, meanwhile, is reportedly planning to ask the government to declare a special crisis status, and to seek financial support for the workers.

The most serious protests took place in Fiat's Termini plant in Sicily, where all 1,800 staff are expected to lose their jobs.

The Archbishop of Palermo, in Sicily, has warned that the rise in unemployment could provide "fertile ground" for the Mafia and could result in more crime.

Pruning for a sale?

Fiat announced the job cuts earlier this week, blaming increased losses and poor sales.


Solutions must stem from the industrial side, bearing in mind competitiveness

Antonio Fazio, Bank of Italy governor

The company, once Europe's largest carmaker, is under pressure to sell its Auto unit, which makes the Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands.

The lay-offs are seen as part of plans to make Fiat Auto more attractive to a bidder.

Union members said over 80% of staff had participated in the strikes on Friday, and 90% of workers at Fiat's main Turin plant.

Fiat disputed the figures but told the Wall Street Journal that it was discussing "endless possibilities", including an outright sale of the car-making division.

General Motors is the most likely buyer, having acquired a 20% stake in Fiat Auto in 2000, with the potential of buying the remaining 80% between 2004 and 2009.

National crisis

Fiat workers are calling on the Italian government for help, including making the former workers eligible for long-term unemployment benefits.


Unemployment also becomes a very fertile ground for organised crime, Mafia in particular

Archbishop Di Giorgi

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said the government hopes to find an alternative solution, although it could be hampered by European competition laws.

The Bank of Italy governor has also stepped in, insisting that the solution must come from within the sector.

"Events at Fiat are part of the difficulties of our economy," said Antonio Fazio.

"Solutions must stem from the industrial side, bearing in mind competitiveness".

Recent figures show unemployment in Italy is near a 10-year low of 9%, but still well above the European average.

"Bubonic plague"

Unemployment levels are concentrated in southern Italy, with Sicily suffering levels of around 27%.

The Archbishop of Palermo, Sicily's capital, has warned that shutting the Termini plant and creating almost 2,000 more unemployed workers would create "a real social tragedy".

Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi said he had contacted Fiat and the government, calling for urgent action.

"Unemployment also becomes a very fertile ground for organised crime, Mafia in particular," warned Archbishop De Giorgi.

"If there is development and there are jobs, this bubonic plague of our land can be fought against better," he added.


Cars and strategies

Background
See also:

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