Until this year, late summer newspapers were always filled with articles about burglaries. “Family returns from holiday and finds home emptied by thieves” was a typical headline. This year, though, it has been factories emptied, and those sneaking in during the night to take away machinery have been the managers themselves.
This has happened in three Italian cities, in three different companies: Firem in Formigine (Modena), Dometic in Forlì and Hydronic Lift in Pero (Milan).
Firem, a company with 42 employees producing electrical resistors, was the pioneer. Just after the beginning of the summer break, the owners started to empty the plant at night, unobserved by the workers or anyone else. When the workers realised what was going on, they immediately organised a picket but, by that time, 90% of the machinery had been taken away and they were only able to stop the last truck. This action, undertaken by the company, seemed unbelievable, especially as before the summer break the workers had been working overtime to keep up with orders.
What on earth was happening? The answer, given by the owners when they were “caught”, was that they had decided to relocate to Poland. Fabrizio Pedroni, head of Firem, said that “in Italy you cannot work” and so he had decided to move the plant. It had been a “tormented choice”, taken, he said, in the full light of day. And, to add insult to injury, the workers received a letter from the owners inviting them to present themselves on September 2 at the new plant, in Olawa, Poland, to be hired.
Firem’s actions are under investigation by the prosecutors. On August 23, after difficult negotiations between the company, the local authorities and the Fiom union (which the company had threatened to pull out of because of the heated atmosphere), the “transfers” of the workers were suspended. The company will continue with production in Modena, as well as at the new plant, and will have to submit an industrial plan within 20 days. In the meantime, the workers will receive financial benefits and also July’s salary, which at the time of the “disappearance” of the plant had not been paid.
Dometic then followed. This company, owned by a Swedish multinational, makes refrigeration-related products and has several plants in Italy. It had announced the closure of most of them except the one in Forlì, as it moved production to China. The future of Forlì’s plant, according to an agreement signed on August 2, was to be discussed on September 5. But during the summer closure, in the middle of the night of August 23, the CEO of Dometic Italy, the head of production for Europe and a Swedish executive, together with around ten persons unknown, were surprised as they took away machinery from the warehouse. The workers immediately ran to stop them, as in a surreal and repetitive story where workers have to guard their plant during the holidays to prevent the owners from destroying it. Repetitive because this wasn’t the first time: at 6 in the morning of August 14, the same three executives had been caught removing products and components. Now the workers, together with the metalworkers’ unions, are on constant guard at the plant and the actions of the three executives have been reported to the police.
Then came Hydronic Lift. On August 2 the 30 workers of the plant near Milan started their summer break but their holiday was rudely interrupted by a letter from the company, informing them that the plant was closing and they were all going to receive redundancy payments. A picket was organised immediately while the company says only that “there is an internal reorganization underway”.
This unscrupulous summer trend, this “new sport” (as the FIOM union calls it) illustrates how much of the world business elite behaves when faced with the crisis: it uses it to make more profit. And for Italy, this widens the gulf between rich and poor, with 10% of Italians owning 50% of resources.
Here you can read about Firem from a Polish point of view