Daniele Di Nunzio, Matteo Gaddi, Angelo Moro - "Lavorare in fabbrica oggi" - A Survey of Working Conditions at FCA-CNH

Publication Type:

Compte Rendu / Report


Report of the Gerpisa monthly seminar, Number 259, Virtuel (2021)


Daniele Di Nunzio (Fondazione Di Vittorio), Matteo Gaddi (Fondazione Claudio Sabattini) et Angelo Moro (Univ. de Bourgogne)

Full Text:

The book presented during this Gerpisa day is the result of a collective research on working conditions in FCA-CNH factories in Italy. The survey collected 7,833 questionnaires with workers and around 160 interviews in 16 of the group's factories and establishments.

Daniele Di Nunzio: The survey was conducted between 2017 and 2019.  Currently in Italy, FCA-CNH and Magneti Marelli employ around 62,000 people, including 50,000 workers in 54 plants, including some logistics centers. 

Di Nunzio begins by reviewing the social characteristics of the survey respondents.
- 80% are men (92.4% at CNH and 79.2% at FCA). 

- They are 45 years old on average. 

- 21.8% are unionized at the IMF, 24.6% are unionized in other unions (the unionization rate at FCA-CNH is higher than the unionization rate in the rest of the private sector).

How do we assess working conditions? The team established a scale from 1 to 10 on work performance, safety, work environment, employment conditions (qualifications, salary), relational aspects, etc. The team also established a scale of 1 to 10 on the following aspects: work performance, safety, work environment, employment conditions (qualifications, salary), relational aspects, etc. 

The results show that the relationship with management is very poor. The same is true for classifications and for the work environment (condition of toilets or changing rooms). Other aspects are less criticized, such as working hours, or the protective or dangerous conditions of the work environment.
The assessment of different aspects of working conditions varies depending on the trade. For example, assembly workers rate material working conditions most negatively, quality control employees rate wages negatively, forklift operators rate safety negatively, and logisticians rate safety equipment negatively. Overall, however, two-thirds of respondents said that working conditions have worsened in recent years.

Where does this negative assessment come from? For Di Nunzio, it is due to the intensification of work and the introduction of World Class Manufacturing (WCM) and the Ergo-UAS System, terms behind which we find lean production associated with Toyota's organizational model. Respondents mainly speak of job saturation (adding tasks), but also of a degradation of the quality of the environment (dirt, among others). New tools at work and new technologies can help, but do not radically improve working conditions. Finally, as far as the training system is concerned, the workers judge it very severely after the introduction of the new WCM and Ergo-UAS production system.

What effects have these changes had on the workers? The survey shows that 24% of the workers report having had an accident before the last three years, and 4% report an accident in the last three years. However, only 57% of workers reported their accident. In addition, 30% of workers report having restricted abilities due to medical reasons.

Finally, what about worker participation? According to the majority of respondents, the new system does not encourage participation, they do not feel involved. However, many workers participate, at least half of them, but they do not feel listened to. They accuse the team leader of being deaf to their suggestions: only 13.7% say that the manager considers the workers' opinions.

Matteo Gaddi :
This one comes back to the qualitative aspect of the research, on the interviews conducted face to face. These interviews make it possible to better assess the determinants of the deterioration in working conditions. The interviews confirm that working conditions have deteriorated with the introduction of the new work organization, which consists of work intensification, increased workload and greater job saturation.

The WCM is derived from the lean model, while Ergo-UAS is a tool to assess the risk for each job (where UAS is a metric of the working time of a job). These three elements are distinct but, from the workers' point of view, they are one and the same thing. In this context, technological tools are the technical means that allow the full and optimal implementation of these changes in work organization.

Gaddi goes back over the history of these changes. The company agreement of 1971 introduced the concept of "maximum saturation" of posts. But a new collective agreement is introduced by the new CEO of the group Sergio Marchionne in 2011. The company is now free to plan the daily production and to change the job saturation. The company then seeks to identify and eliminate activities with no added value, i.e. activities that correspond to downtime. However, these activities, considered as "downtime" by the company, constitute "micro-pauses" for workers, both physically and intellectually. In this system of measuring activities, any moment that does not constitute an addition is considered a loss, and therefore a cost.

For the facilitator, production volumes and the time allotted are essential for understanding working conditions. Tools, machines and robots also have an allotted time, and it is impossible to modify it. The tools that are supposed to help the workers guide the workers' performance and therefore are a constraint on time and work rhythms. Moreover, the digitalization of the work process contributes to this phenomenon and becomes a powerful tool to control the workers' performance.

Angelo Moro : 

The intervention focuses on the issues of union representation and union action at FCA-CNH. In order to understand these issues, it is necessary to go back in time. The Italian "hot autumn" of 1969 contributed to the introduction of a new system of union representation based on factory councils elected by the workers. Then, in 1970 the "Workers Statute" radically changed the system of employee representation with the introduction of company trade union representatives (RSA in Italian) which were an emanation of the factory councils.
Then the system changed in the 1980's and 1990's with the introduction of the RSU (Representativo Syndico Unico Unico (RSU)). The latter have more bargaining power than the previous ones, they can sign a company agreement. In the 2000s the RSUs replaced the RSAs.

In 2010, Fiat management threatened to relocate part of the production to Poland. The trade unions CISL and UIL therefore agreed to the management's wish to open negotiations for a new company agreement. This led to the negotiation of the "Contratto Collettivo Specifico di Lavoro" (CCSL).
In the meantime, Fiat has withdrawn from the branch agreement. However, the law only protected the trade unions that signed the collective agreements. For this reason, the FIOM, a union that was not a signatory of the CCS and the main union in Fiat plants, was excluded from union representation. After two years of litigation, in 2013, the Constitutional Court forced Fiat to recognize the CGIL. 

Moro recalls that since then, FCA has been negotiating separately with the IMF. The divide between the IMF and the other unions continues to structure the system of representation within FCA. On the one hand, the signatory unions are elected in the professional elections, they participate in the IRPs and benefit from overtime delegation. On the other hand, the IMF cannot participate in the professional elections, cannot participate in the IRPs and only has the delegation hours granted by law. Despite these obstacles, the elections to the health and safety representative bodies in which the IMF can participate show that workers place a large part of their trust in this union.

What are the obstacles for IMF representatives today? There is a lack of delegation hours, the development of new intermediary hierarchical levels (such as team leaders), the reduction of breaks (often used for union activities), the fear of repression by the company, etc. Nevertheless, IMF representatives are finding ways to act and intervene. According to Moro, they adapt while resisting. Micro-conflicts persist in the factories.
Despite a very difficult context, the IMF continues to act in FCA factories. There is still a very strong network maintained by the union and a very strong dedication on the part of the representatives, often devoting time outside of work to their work as representatives. This is a reminder that, for the speaker, a factory without unions and without conflict is impossible.

Question: On the methodology of the survey. How was the survey conducted? Was it a request of the FIOM-CGIL? How were the interviews conducted? At the factory? At the union hall? How were they obtained?

Comparison with PSA. In 2013 and 2016, PSA signed competitiveness agreements with the unions as a response to the crisis. It should be remembered that PSA came close to bankruptcy in 2012 and closed the Aulnay-Sous-Bois plant. As a result of these agreements, the employer undertook not to lay off workers. At FCA, the new collective agreement of 2011 takes the factories out of branch collective bargaining. In what context was the new agreement introduced, the CCSL, with the WCM and the ergo-UAS. Is it an effect of the 2008 crisis? What made it possible to set up the CCSL?

Daniele Di Nunzio:
The main objective of this survey was to study the working conditions in FCA factories. Then, to improve the workers' expression, especially through the questionnaire, so to consider the workers' point of view. Also, to reflect the conditions of production of knowledge about work in the factory. Finally, to use the results of the research to create collaborative networks between researchers and unionists.
It can be said that this research is the product of collaboration with employee representatives. It is co-research, i.e. research thought as collaboration. It is therefore a question of advertising working conditions, in a context of absence of workers' representation within the company.

Matteo Gaddi:
FCA imposed the CCSL by blackmailing. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the company, did not mobilize the argument of the crisis, but said that if the workers refuse the new collective agreement, there would be site closures. FCA then imposed a referendum to validate the agreement. But only half of the workers validated the agreement.

Angelo Moro:
The link between the crisis and the new CCSL agreement is relatively weak. The FCA management saw the opportunity to change industrial relations in the political context of the country (the last years of Berlusconi, pressure from the ECB to introduce changes in labour law, etc.). FCA simply used the new legislation. The argument was as follows: Fiat is now an international group, the company must invest where it can make a profit. This is also a change in the corporate culture at FCA. 
This is interesting: the path taken by Fiat is not the same as that taken by other companies in the automotive sector. No other company has followed FCA down this path. Above all, today Fiat's management is reconsidering returning to the federation of metalworking employers.

Question: Is there a division between permanent and temporary workers in FCA plants? What is their situation? In terms of working conditions, workstation, salary? 
What was the survey process? How did you design the questionnaire? How did you administer the questionnaires? Did you have the opportunity to present the results to workers or unionists?

Question: We don't see surveys of this magnitude today. There is little interest in work, or in workers. Italian cinema has been interested in work and workers. We can also think of the work of Stéphane Beaud and Michel Pialoux, Retour sur la condition ouvrière, now classic, which has no equivalent in Italy.
Your work echoes my research on the factories of Japanese companies in Europe. These were factories without unions, which often selected their workers from outside industrial zones, and therefore without a union tradition. 
What conclusions can be drawn from your survey? One could draw a regulationist approach, which is the one we have at Gerpisa. We can see that the production system at FCA is not very efficient, the system does not allow workers to do their work well. We could build an alliance with the management around another production model that is a little more viable for the workers.
Finally, the decline in production at Fiat was central to the adoption of the CCSL. The single market has produced that in a way. The outlook for Stellantis is bleak, because there will probably be restructuring.

Question: You have investigated different plants. What differences do you see between FCA, CNH and MM? Each plant produces for different markets? Everything appears very homogeneous in your survey. Finally, what is the role of temporary workers? How does the internal market work?

Daniele Di Nunzio: The research group is vast, there are several theoretical approaches. Nevertheless, more research is needed on working conditions. When we are interested in working conditions, we are talking about the quality of life at work, the quality of life in general and the type of society in which we live.
Temporary contracts are mainly used in new products. When FCA launches a new model, it uses temporary workers. There is indeed significant diversity between FCA and CNH plants. Working conditions are arguably worse at FCA.

Matteo Gaddi: Production volumes have shifted from Western Europe to Eastern Europe. This situation leads to competition between workers from different countries. We cannot isolate elements of working conditions or lean management. That makes a system. There has to be cooperation between European trade unions.

Angelo Moro: Has the work process become transparent? For whom has it become transparent? The aim of FCA is not to return the work process to the workers, but to the management. 
Many young workers on temporary contracts entered the company with the idea that the WCM was a promise. They said they had suggestions that were not taken into account.


  GIS Gerpisa / gerpisa.org
  4 Avenue des Sciences, 91190 Gif-sur-Yvette

Copyright© Gerpisa
Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Juan Sebastian Carbonell, Lorenza MonacoGéry Deffontaines

Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system