Members of FIOM-CGIL protest against Firem in Modena A group of Italian metalworkers came back from holiday this month to find that their factory had closed and moved to Poland. Workers at the Firem factory near Modena came back and found the factory l …
A group of Italian metalworkers came back from holiday this month to find that their factory had closed and moved to Poland. Workers at the Firem factory near Modena came back and found the factory locked. Almost all the production machinery had been dismantled and removed to the new Polish site. The workers and their union, FIOM-CGIL, mounted a blockade of the site to prevent the removal of the rest of the machinery.
To make matters worse, this was done with the assistance of the Polish government, which portrayed the move as a “victory for Polish labour”: the jobs were moved to the deprived town of Oława in Poland, where their ex-boss, Fabrizio Pedroni, will receive tax exemptions and other aid for creating jobs in Poland!
Earlier this month, Pedroni gave his employees three weeks’ holiday and then packed up all the equipment to move to Poland. He registered two business in his name: Helkra in Wroclaw, which is to run production in Oława, and also Atingo, registered in Oława.
The new factory in Poland will operate in a Special Economic Zone and only employ 18 people – the factory in Italy employs 40. Working time is more flexible in these zones in Poland and bosses can require people to work up to 78 hours a week during peak production periods, and give them less work at other times. There is speculation that fewer people will be needed to meet fluctuating production needs if this is the case.
The moving of the Firem factory has caused outrage in Italy. And it should in Poland as well: government and business propaganda which paints this as job creation should be challenged. The type of work created in the Special Economic Zones (or anywhere in Poland) is grossly underpaid. Polish workers lost their guarantees of an 8-hour day and more and more people are earning less than minimum wage. And even the minimum wage is far too low.
Polish workers are being forced to engage in a race to the bottom to compete with the Italians. They are told to give up their labour rights and avoid unions because they are not cheap enough. They are told that if they are not cheap enough, jobs will go elsewhere. And it is true. Because we are all just money-making machines which can be disposed of at any time, especially when the bosses find somewhere cheaper to produce, or get a better tax break or subsidy from the government.
This is exactly what happened to the Italian workers: Pedroni claims that the factory is not profitable in Italy because of the social security measures he needs to pay, and the ‘inflexibility’ of the Italian workforce. However, the Italian metalworkers’ federation, FIOM-CGIL, rejects the claim that the company was not profitable, and is appalled that there was no consultation with workers or their union.
““In 22 years as a union official I have never seen an employer who decides to dismantle his business without undertaking any procedures,” said FIOM-CGIL Modena general secretary Cesare Pizzolla.
According to a commentator in Poland, workers in the area of Oława are desperate for work:
“The Firem workers have to understand this and not blame them for “stealing jobs”. At the same time, workers in Poland have to understand their role in this mechanism and try to fight against it. The only solution can be seen in international labour struggle. The labour struggle in Europe is only as strong as its weakest link. And Poland, Romania and other countries – we are those weak links, where our working class is in such an unfavourable position that it is ready to work for practically nothing. And there go thousands and thousands of manufacturing jobs from countries paying higher wage.”
This highlights the problem of how the Eurozone has been structurally locked into finding market solutions to every economic crisis. As this analysis points out, there is a seemingly irreconcilable tension in Europe between democracy, and the needs of capital and corporations. The fact that much of the Eurozone periphery is now ruled or controlled by the technocrats of the Troika only underlines the problem.
The only union that matters in Europe is the union of workers. Labour solidarity is essential.
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