Working conditions and labour organisation within Italian FCA plants

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Matteo Gaddi


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2019)


labour organisation, new technologies, working conditions


The paper is located within sub-theme “Employment and labour relations: between segmentation and convergence” and deals with the following Key topics: impact of new technologies on work and employment; working conditions; upskilling – deskilling; training; organizing labour; restructuring; autonomy and control at work.
The results to be presented are the result of field research conducted by CGIL, FIOM, “Claudio Sabattini” Foundations and “Di Vittorio” Foundations in the context of the FCA Group's Italian plants.
To summarize, working conditions and work organisation in the FCA Group's plants are characterised by: strong compression of the time allocated to the performance of operations; intensification of the pace; increase in workloads; net worsening of saturations, failure to resolve, or even worsen, certain ergonomic conditions. Overall, therefore, there is a clear deterioration in working conditions compared to the phase before to the application of both WCM and Ergo-UAS and the use of the new technologies.
At the same time, it is necessary to try to identify, as precisely as possible, which are the main elements within this "whole" that most affect the work performance, also in order to suggest possible areas of initiative.

The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to identify the possible determinants of working conditions in FCA Italian plants. At least ten determinants are identified:
1. collective bargaining aspects;
2. the methods of work metrics and ergonomic assessment used;
3. technological elements;
4. the production mix;
5. logistics;
6. the (non-)rotation of workstations;
7. reduction of workforce;
8. quality objectives (control, certification, etc.);
9. the number of operations per workstation and the management of the operational card;
10. the system of breaks.

From the point of views of this paper, and according to interviews realized with workers in the field, there is a close connection between the above aspects; especially as regards the interweaving of new organisational models (Lean Production – World Class Manufacturing) and new technologies (in particular those linked to digitisation, Industry 4.0 etc.).
The Wcm is a system of governance of multinational companies aimed at achieving high rates of return through platforms capable of directing and controlling processes throughout the value chain. The most important innovation introduced by this system compared to "Lean Production", of which it represents an evolution, is to conceive the improvement of production efficiency not simply by eliminating waste but starting from the concept of loss, i.e. the lack of optimal allocation of resources.
The Wcm strategy is normally declined with "faster, higher, stronger": faster than others, higher in the rankings, stronger in the competition: the efficiency of a production plant depends on the ability to release ever-increasing shares of funds for the company so that to maintain its competitive advantage in the global arena. For this purpose, all operational and production support activities must be directed towards a process of continuous improvement aimed at creating a flow of added value without waste and with as few losses as possible, i.e. to tend towards a flow at maximum speed and minimum cost.
In the Wcm occupies a central place the identification and elimination of those activities which the system classifies as "non-value-added activity" (Nvaa).
To get to eliminate the Nvaa the company displays and classifies all the activities carried out by each worker; within these it identifies the "value-added" and the "not value added" ones, measures the latter and defines measures to reduce their as much as possible or even eliminate them altogether.
This system of production organization is integrated with the use of technologies, characterized by the use of mechanized lines: therefore, production volumes and times (which must be equal to the cadence) are fundamental elements in defining the conditions of the working activity.
The frequency of assembly lines also affects the times and rhythms of the operators who work to support them, i.e. the employees of the preparation departments (pre-assemblies, etc.) and logistics (automatic trolleys).
The use of machinery (welding robots, mechanical processing machines, etc.), operating on the basis of programs that also define the cycle times of each operation (machine times), also plays an important role in linking times and rhythms of the operators' performance.
The same constraints in performance can be seen in all those aids (which include mechanical, electronic and digital elements) which, by "guiding the operator's performance" and also having the cycle times incorporated, condition the operator's times and rhythms.
The digitization and connection of lines, machines and tools used allows to record in real time the start / end of the various operations, thus representing a powerful tool for time control and monitoring of the progress of production; this is also done through the recording systems of production quality control.
The insertion of elements of computerization and digitization also allows a faster reconfiguration of lines and machinery, thus reducing the time of resetting / reorganization intensifying rhythms and saturations, when these are used for tasks of certification / control allow a reduction in the time of execution of these operations.
If certain technological aids cause slowdowns in the flow, the company does not hesitate to eliminate them even in cases where they have been designed and inserted to improve the ergonomic aspects of the workstations; other tools, however, always to avoid "bottlenecks" or slowdowns remain unused.
Certain technological investments that have been introduced have led to significant personnel replacements with consequent reductions in employment.

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