Union workers at the Fiat 500L factory in Serbia (the same factory that built those fancy Yugos) have been demanding raises and the addition of another model for months. The union representing those workers has promised it will work with the manufacturer to meet worker demands. But, if the latest newsletter is any indication of progress, there’s been none: the union hasn’t even been able to get the company to the bargaining table.
The union newsletter has gotten shorter over the past few months, and the February version is now down to a single page. The news items are both disappointing and somewhat comical as there only a few lines dedicated to the workers’ interests.
The first half of the newsletter states the union’s main goal for this year is the preservation of all jobs at the plant, and it’s planning to achieve that goal by negotiating with both of the factory’s owners: FCA Group (67 percent) and the Serbian government (33 percent).
Union leaders state that they have met with a few FCA supervisors and brought up some of the workers issues, such as work stoppages and injuries on the job, but that they’ve not met with anyone that can take action yet on those items. The union does note that it did request a meeting with Silvia Vernetti, head of EMEA Development for Fiat, who could approve some of the requested changes. The union has also sent demands to the Serbian government, and additionally requested that the government send its own representative to the FCA Serbia board to assist in negotiations.
And that’s it.
The newsletter then takes an almost comical turn to sports and discounts. The middle section states that the union is happy to announce that basketball and soccer tournaments are returning this year, and will be accompanied by a dart tournament for the ladies.
The second half of the newsletter is dedicated to a union-negotiated charcoal discount and the various types of charcoal available to members. It might appear that the union is slowly putting together a cookout since they offered a chicken discount last year, but only large quantities are available. The cheapest package is one tonne of “Kolubara” charcoal for 6,500 RSD (approximately $58 USD based on current exchange rates). Another possibility is that the union leaders might be trying to help their workers get into the charcoal resale business as they also offer financing for large loads.
To add insult to injury, the newsletter was followed by a notification on Facebook that the factory will be shut down from February 24 to March 7. They state that the temporary shutdown is directly related to the lack of sales in European and world markets for the Fiat 500L. Worker morale is low and the union doesn’t seem to be doing too much to improve it by securing the positions of workers. Some are hoping that a new model line, such as the Tipo, will be added to the factory soon, but the prospects are bleak.