Source Pravda.Ru

Berlusconi Chooses the Russian Way of Solving Problems - 9 December, 2002 - News

The Italian government seems to have reached a temporary compromise with the trade union leaders and the Fiat leadership concerning the problem of anti-crisis management over the country’s largest enterprise, which is currently experiencing a difficult crisis. Starting with Monday, 5,600 Fiat employees (mostly from an unprofitable Fiat Auto subdivision) will be paid from integral funds, Italy’s Labor Minister Roberto Maroni reported today.

In accordance with this plan, one-third of the Fiat staff must be laid-off and put on payment from integral funds; which means that the laid-off workers will receive 80% of their regular wages (Russian workers would be more than happy if they were offered such conditions). Unfortunately, workers at many enterprises in Russia work at enterprises every day and manufacture goods, butthese people are not paid wages for months. However, the owners of these enterprises deposit money meant for wages into offshore banks in order to get superprofits. And if workers are laid off, they are paid nothing at all, as is traditionally done in Russia. Only this year, under pressure of the federal authorities, it was decided to partially pay for lays-off. However, it is traditionally no more than 30-50% of the regular wages, which are often not more than 100-200 dollars per month.

The Italian mass media report that the government managed to force the Fiat leadership to relax conditions of the anti-crisis plan. The company agreed that workers will be placed on payment from the integral funds not for a year, but for a shorter period, so that the workers could replace each other; in this case, the total number of workers paid from the integral funds will exceed 8,100 people. In addition, the company agreed not to close the isolated Termini Imerese car plant for a whole year and to give the workers a chance to train for new professions. Fiat is ready to renew contracts only with a half of the laid-off workers when the anti-crisis procedures are over. The rest will have to worry about their future themselves.

Under these conditions, Labor Minister Roberto Maroni thinks that large-scale dismissals may become an alternative to the integral funds. According to Italian legislation, payments from the integral funds are meant for enterprises experiencing crises and carrying out programs for to overcome the crises. However, the trade unions are not completely satisfied with these conditions, and say they are going to exert more pressure on the authorities.

At the same time, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suggested a witty and non-traditional way out off the complicated situation. He suggested that the laid-off workers not become frustrated and to join the country’s “shadow economy.” NEWS.Ru informs that the Italian prime minister is sure that “these people may have even higher wages in the shadow than at Fiat.”

The Italian mass media report that the statements by Berlusconi entailed a hail of protests in Italy. Leader of the left-centrist opposition, Italian Ex-Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, was extremely indignant at the prime minister’s suggestion. He said that it is kind of a slap in the face of public opinion. “What is the use of a prime minister who calls upon people to break the law and join the shadow economy?” he said.

At the same time, although this approach to the problem is considered unacceptable by the majority of refined European politicians, economists say that “the shadow economy” is a kind of buffer that helps smooth social conflicts when severe crises occur in capitalist economies. Economists say that it is very important to try and maintain a shadow economy at a level of not more than 15-20% of GDP. Otherwise, corrupted degeneration of the government is inevitable. According to the World Bank’s estimates, the level of Russia’s shadow economy is approximately 50% of GDP. And the Russian State Statistics Committee reports that it is not more than 30%.

Fiat, which is currently Italy’s largest private employer, is under the strong pressure of creditors, which is the reason why it must reduce its debts by 2.2 billion euros by the beginning of the next year. The trade unions, however, would like to retain the maximally possible number of workplaces at FIAT. The government of Italy tried to find a solution to satisfy all parties of the conflict, but in vain. In a word, the class struggle is picking up in Italy.

Ahtyam Ahtyrov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://economics.pravda.ru/economics/2002/7/21/62/4058_Fiat.html

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