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EDITIONS
Monday, 9 December, 2002, 11:18 GMT
Fiat redundancies begin
Fiat worker outside the Termini Imerese factory near Palermo
Unions doubt that the redundancies are temporary
The first wave of redundancies has hit Fiat workers in Italy as the crisis-hit carmaker begins its huge layoff.

Up to 5,600 employees are expected to receive temporary redundancy letters on Monday, as the first part of Fiat's plans to cut over 8,000 posts.


What can you say about a prime minister who incites (workers) to break the law. It's amazing

Massimo d'Alema, Italian Social Democrats leader
The car maker, once Italy's largest employer, has insisted the redundancies are only temporary and that most workers will be re-employed within a year.

But unions have disputed the claim and angry protests throughout Italy continued on Monday, with walkouts at a number of factories.

In Sicily, workers at the soon-to-be closed Termini Imerese factory blocked the road between Palermo and Catania. Near Milan, sacked workers blocked a main road, while in Turin strikers closed down the main car assembly line at Mirafiori.

'Unofficial' solution?

Fiat is proposing to axe up to 8,100 jobs as part of a controversial restructuring plan aimed at stemming its huge losses and returning the group to profitability.

Crisis-talks last week between unions and the Italian government failed to reach an agreement to avert the cuts, prompting thousands of frustrated workers to block roads and railways throughout Italy.

Meeting between union officials and the Italian government
Meetings with the government collapsed

Unions called for further strikes on Monday at Fiat factories, including at the group's Maranello plant which makes Ferraris.

There was also a bitter reaction to the country's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who suggested on Saturday that workers threatened by unemployment should seek "unofficial" jobs in the black economy.

"What can you say about a prime minister who incites (workers) to break the law. It's amazing," said Massimo d'Alema, the country's former prime minister and head of the Social Democrats party.

GM option

The Italian Undersecretary of Welfare, Maurizio Sacconi, has said it would now be "opportune" for Fiat to "speed up clarifications" of its deal with the US car maker General Motors.

Fiat has the option to sell its Fiat Auto division - which includes the Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands but not Ferrari - to GM in 2004.

GM already has a 20% stake in the business, but Fiat's chief executive Gabrielle Galateri said on Friday that Fiat would "remain Italian".

See also:

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