Fiat Auto: Industrial Relations Lost in Globalisation

  • Paolo Caputo University of Calabria
  • Antonino Campenni
  • Elisabetta Della Corte


In the actual context of globalization, carmakers face a highly competitive market. The pace of technological innovation, the increase in international competition, the saturation of markets and the shortening of product lifespan are but some of the factors requiring a new organization of production. In order to face these radical changes, carmakers are implementing new strategies, not only by embracing the concept of globalization, but also by promoting changes in labour management practices, work organization and industrial relations. The aim of this paper is to analyze the impact of Fiat’s new managerial strategies in response to increased global competition on the situation of the industrial relations, on the role of the Unions and on the condition of workers. These strategies include an intensification of work, shift and wage flexibility, plus a severe limitations of workers’ rights (including the right to strike). On the one hand, such a strategy was presented and justified to the workers and the public as an objective necessity of global economy, and was even submitted to a referendum; on the other, the process was conducted unilaterally, under the recurring threat of transferring production abroad if the workers and their Unions refused to accept the new method. This brought to a split of the Unions and dialogue was maintained only with collaborative organisations, causing the discrimination of the other Unions and a situation of great dissatisfaction amongst all the workers. Through the words of workers and Union activists, the research showed evidence of the failure of claims that new management strategy can ensure both productivity and a new form of workplace democracy in the post-fordist factory. Despite new labour-saving technologies, lean production organisation and the adoption of new metric systems (such as Ergo-UAS), car industry would need, more than in the past, the involvement and active participation of Unions and workers. On the contrary, the paper points out how Fiat’s actual form of production organization generates new tensions and increases employee’s discontent, likely to ignite industrial conflict.

Author Biography

Paolo Caputo, University of Calabria

Researcher of Sociology of Economics and Work

Department of Sociology and Political Science