Fiat gets bulk of unions to back Chrysler venture

ROME (AP) — Fiat has won the backing of most unions on a joint venture agreement with Chrysler to build Alfa Romeo and Jeep brand vehicles at the Italian automaker’s factory in Turin.

But Italy’s main metalworkers union, FIOM, refused to sign the agreement, because it wants national contracts, not local ones.

Despite FIOM’s refusal, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday hailed the accord as “historic and positive.”

The agreement Thursday, which among other things, cracks down on excessive sick days in exchange for more pay, is part of Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s quest for greater productivity.

The joint venture between the two companies marks the first significant step toward integration in Europe between the Italian and U.S. automakers, since Fiat Spa took effective control of Chrysler LLC with a 20-percent stake in June 2009.

The two companies have said they will invest more than euro1 billion ($1.31 billion) to produce 280,000 vehicles a year at the Mirafiori factory in Fiat’s hometown.

A workers’ referendum is expected to take place early next year.

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