A New York Times article reporting on Fiat’s push to “impose American-style standards” at an Alfa Romeo plant in Southern Italy, where workers workers will have to *gasp* work more hours and cut back on absences. One irate employee told the Times that“… too much work is going to kill our workers”, prompting nods of agreement from UAW management types across North America.
Among the hilariously stereotypical but odious offences listed involve “…peers who call in sick to earn money while working another job or skip work with a fake doctor’s note — especially when the local soccer team is playing.” The old jokes about Alfa factory workers building a car on Friday and finishing to the next week seem all too true, and Alfa still has a bad reputation for poor build quality to this day.
The Times article goes on to discuss the ongoing European economic crisis, and how the Alfa plant, situated in the South of the country, is emblematic of the significantly lower living standards in the region relative to the North of the country, and many other European nations.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchonne wants to toughen up standards by cracking down on absenteeism and a culture where ” people don’t miss a chance to miss work.” One worker told an anecdote of how Fiat erected massive television screens inside the factory so that workers could watch the World Cup during work. Many employees still failed to show up, skipping work to watch the game elsewhere, despite being paid by Fiat to watch the matches. The same employee described the crushing effect that absent workers have, stating that “When one person is missing, it slows down the whole group and everyone has to pick up the slack. The production of 200 cars, for example, is slowed to 160 if a person is gone. Imagine when this is multiplied across the factory.”
Despite this, 63 percent of the work force agreed to accept the tough new standards, in return for an investment of almost $1 billion and the addition of a third shift at the plant. Measures like this are inevitable if Europe wants to pull itself back from the brink, and shrug off the crushing austerity programs, which force higher taxes and massive reductions in social welfare spending as a means of gaining some economic stability.
[Source: New York Times Photo Credit: Roberto Salmone for the International Herald Tribune]