Last week, Fiat’s (FCA) factory in Kragujevac resumed production after several weeks of recess due to paid and collective leave.
Since the beginning of the year the factory was operational for only 35 days, the Nezavisnost trade union said. Employees and trade unions have no information on how many working days there will still be until the end of this year and are increasingly concerned for the future of the factory in Serbia.
According to the trade union, the coronavirus epidemic has slowed down the already complicated car production in the Kragujevac factory. The president of Nezavisnost, Zoran Stanić, explains that the factory has been producing the 500L model for nine years, which has now become “quite obsolete” and which has experienced a declining demand in the global market.
“The workers know nothing about the factory’s future and how safe their jobs are,” says Stanic, adding that the management only occasionally gives out which is mainly related to the suspension or start of production, and often the factory-related information comes from unofficial sources like Fiat’s suppliers.
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“According to the collective agreement, the employer is obliged to inform all workers about matters vital to the factory’s operations, but this is not the case here. Both the trade union and the employees have the right to know about production plans and the future of the factory, but we, unfortunately, do not know. We don’t even know if a new model will be produced in Kragujevac because everything is rife with speculation, ”says Stanic.
Over the past year, about 40,000 Fiat 500Ls have come off the production lines, while this year’s production volume is much lower. Stanic explains that the reason for the drop in production is the lower demand for this obsolete model, but also the lower purchasing power of citizens due to the pandemic and the instability of the automotive industry market in general.
The Nezavisnost trade union is also concerned about the growing number of employees who are leaving the Fiat plant in search of better-paid and safer jobs. Stanic warns that that has become a trend in recent years; the best technical staff was among the first to leave the factory, followed by production workers.
He is also sceptical of the merger between Fiat and Peugeot, which should be completed by the year-end, and adds that the Kragujevac plant cannot be improved “overnight”.
“Even if we start producing a new model, there will be no-one to produce it, because the best technical staff have left the factory,” Stanic fears.
Production workers are also leaving the factory, and according to unofficial information, in August alone, about twenty people left the company voluntarily.
Fiat’s trade unions have no information on how many cars will be produced by the end of 2020 nor do they are authorized to say how many cars have been manufactured since the beginning of the year.
However, if we take into account the fact that the daily capacity of the Kragujevac plant is about 400 vehicles, an approximate calculation shows that, during 35 working days, about 14,000 vehicles have rolled off the assembly lines since the beginning of the year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fiat’s workers have been on paid leave almost all the time; in early July, they returned to work for a short period after which they took the collective annual holiday.
During their leave, they received 65% of their salary and, after the legally allowed 45 non-working days expired, the factory management requested and got an additional 80 days of paid leave from the Serbian government, which workers can use until the end of September.
This post is also available in: Italiano