Betting on the Future: A Comparison Between Trade Unions’ Strategy in the Restructuring of Fiat and Volvo Cars

Federico Fusco

Abstract


Nowadays, a key factor for business competitiveness is the ability to change structure adapting to markets shifts. Restructuring often requires negotiation with trade unions, which must calibrate their action in order to protect workers’ interests. Based on these considerations, the present paper analyses trade unions’ role in the restructuring processes of Fiat and Volvo cars during the 2008-2010 economic crisis. Both companies opted for innovative strategies, clashing with their respective national models of restructuring and based on the logic of a “common bet” between employer and employees towards a better future. The Swedish trade union managed to combine its efforts with the Volvo one, to quickly adopt necessary measures. Conversely, some Italian unions clung to old inefficient schemes, affecting the firm’s action and almost causing the shutdown of the plant. Those different approaches could be the outcome of opposite public intervention strategies at the economy, especially in relation to enterprises’ crisis. Italy traditionally aims to prevent dismissals, supporting layoffs with public allowances. Sweden took action, helping workers to find new jobs. Thus, Swedish trade unions conceive restructuring as a normal part of company’s life, while in Italy reliance on public funds helps to keep alive activities which are no longer economically sustainable.


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