News of the football sensation Cristiano Ronaldo's high-profile move to the Juventus football club may have brought cheers in some parts of Italy, but the little town of Melfi doesn't figure among them. Employees at Fiat's plant have announced a two-day strike to protest the signing of the Portuguese star – and no, this news not what it first sounds like.
You see, the Agnelli family – which owns 29.18 percent of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – also owns 63.77 percent of Juventus. Juventus, in turn, has signed Ronaldo for a record €100m (approximately Rs 800 crore) transfer fee – reportedly with funding from the Fiat group.
In response, the Italian workers' union of Unione Sindicale di Base (USB) has announced that it will be on strike from July 15 to July 17, saying, "It is unacceptable that, while for years you have continued to ask FCA [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] and CNHI [Case and New Holland Industrial] workers to make enormous sacrifices on an economic level, the company spends hundreds of millions of euros on the purchase of a footballer."
"We are told that times are tough and that we must resort to social safety nets in anticipation of the launch of new models which never arrive," the statement read. "And, while the workers and their families tighten up the belts more and more the company decides to invest on a human resource for so much money. Is all of this right? Is it right that one single person can earn millions and yet thousands of families don't even get to the middle of the month?"
Juventus is set to pay Ronaldo €30 million a year in wages on a four-year contract, and will additionally pay €12 million in ancillary fees – which hasn't gone down well with the workers' union.
"We are all employees of the same owner but never as in this moment of huge social difficulty, this unequal treatment cannot and will not be accepted. The company should invest in car models which guarantee the future of thousands of people rather than make just one person rich – this has to be the objective for whoever puts the interests of its workers first. If this does not happen, it is because they prefer the world of sport, entertainment and everything else," the statement continued.
Covering a total area of approximately 1.7 million square metres, the Melfi plant employs nearly 8,000 people and has a total production capacity of 4,00,000 vehicles, per annum. The plant currently produces the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade.
UPDATE: Sources close to Fiat said the USB constitutes only a small part of the total workforce, and has been disregarded by the four major workers' unions that operate at the Melfi plant, so this strike is unlikely to have a major impact on production.