- Title: ITALY: Auto workers protest as government and auto industry hold talk
- Date: 29th January 2009
- Summary: TURIN, ITALY (FILE - JULY 5, 2007) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF LAUNCH OF NEW FIAT 500 CAR
- Embargoed: 13th February 2009 12:00
- Location: Italy
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA8S7LU5P3VW69SH55FK49EP431
- Story Text: Italy's government meets with car industry representatives to tackle the future of the country's auto industry while hundreds of workers protest over job loss fears.
Italy's government met with car industry representatives on Wednesday (January 28) amid mounting calls for help to stop sales sliding, in a crisis that threatens the survival of Fiat SpA, the country's biggest auto manufacturer.
During the meeting, hundreds of Fiat SpA workers held a protest outside the government palace to urge the government to be more responsive to the industry's plight.
Mario Salerno, a Fiat employee at the demonstration, accused the Italian government of being consumers that forgetting manufacturers and people that create wealth for the country.
"People who consume are on the top (the italian government) while people who produce wealth and allow our country to stand up are here, at the bottom. They (the government) took our dignity away but we will never stop the fight," he said.
Ahead of the meeting, Fiat executives met ministers late on Tuesday (January 27) to lobby for incentives to get people buying cars again. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has said 60,000 jobs are at risk if nothing is done to help.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has put together a package of incentives, including tax breaks for consumers swapping old cars for new ones, and ones that are more friendly to the environment, local news reports said.
The value of the incentive packages ranges from 260 million to 1.2 billion euros. Even the top of that range would be less than Italy's competitors have stumped up.
Fiat workers at the demonstration also called for a government support to auto industry in light of the global recession.
"We call for a new industrial plan for Pomigliano. They (the government) don't give us new cars and we have been in the redundancy fund since July. We get only 700 euros a month, " Andrea Marini, a Fiat worker in Naples said.
Pomigliano is one of the Fiat factories, in Naples, that is expected to cut jobs.
A factory worker at the protest accused the government of offering support only during election time.
"It is not possible that our politicians are leaving and forgetting us. They come and ask votes only during the political election time," Nando Giustiniano, a Fiat worker from Pomigliano, Naples, said.
Mindful of the need to contain public spending, Berlusconi has spoken of assistance that would not cost too much. But he has also expressed a desire to ensure Italy's manufacturers do not fall behind foreign competitors who are getting state aid.
One of his ministers has warned, however, against giving Fiat preferential treatment.
Italy's car industry, dominated by Fiat, employs 375,000 people directly and indirectly. With an annual turnover of 165 billion euros, it accounts for 10.7 percent of gross domestic product, according to the main auto industry association ANFIA.
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