Fiat Wants Concessions From Unions

ROME (AP) -- Fiat promised Wednesday to work with unions in Italy to gain concessions so it can move production of the new Panda hatchback from Poland to a plant outside Naples often troubled by labor issues.

The Turin-based auto company issued a statement following a referendum among workers in which 62 percent voted in favor of more flexible working conditions.

Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne had been hoping for overwhelming approval, and the Fiat statement blasted what it called the impossibility of reaching agreement "with those seeking to block it," a reference to one of the metalworkers unions.

Fiat wants to arrange shifts so the plant at Pomigliano d'Arco can operate 24 hours a day, six days a week, before investing some euro700 million in it.

The statement said Fiat would now work with those unions that "have assumed the responsibility of (reaching) accord."

The alternative would be to close down the plant, which employs 5,000 workers.

The current version of the low-priced Panda, Fiat's second-best selling car, is produced at its plant in Tychy, Poland. The new model will so on sale next year.

The company wants to produce as many as 300,000 cars a year at the Naples plant -- compared to current production of just 30,000 vehicles.

The assembly line at Pomigliano, one of Italy's poorest areas, has long been troubled by high absenteeism and other labor issues.

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