In the wake of the merger between FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and PSA (Peugeot Société Anonyme), one thing has been heard repeatedly in discussions: the need to cut costs, and at all levels.
Carlos Tavares, the CEO of the Stellantis group that was born from the marriage of the two companies, said that the automaker would not cut jobs or close plants, but would still aim to save more than 5 billion Euros per year after the merger.
To do this, it seems that nothing is off-limits. And that, according to unions, includes reducing cleaning services and even the number of toilets available to workers in Fiat's Italian plants.
Carlos Tavares added that production costs in Italian plants are up to four times higher than in the automaker's facilities in France or Spain.
Davide Provenzano of the FIM (Federazione Italiana Metalmeccanici), a grouping of 23 unions in Italy, said Stellantis was taking action at its Mirafiori plant. The Mirafiori plant is located in Turin and is responsible for building the Fiat New 500, a fully electric car. The measures include reducing the number of toilets available to workers, cutting back on cleaning crews and lowering temperatures, as well as reorganizing transportation-related facilities.
“This is happening during Covid-19, when you should be increasing toilets available and cleaning services, rather than cutting them,” lamented the representative.
Edi Lazzi, of the left-wing union FIOM, said he believed the cost-cutting measures in Italy were personal initiatives of local management rather than a broad strategy launched by the group. "The measures are a drop in the bucket," he said.
Cost-containment measures have been reported at other Italian sites. That suggests a directive from above, though not necessarily something specific, rather more of an encouragement to cut expenses.
Nicola Manzi of the UILM union said Stellantis has cut cleaning services by some 35 percent at the Atessa plant in central Italy, Europe's largest van production site. He said, however, that the disinfection services put in place for coronavirus, as well as the number of toilets, were unchanged.
“We are currently running almost at full capacity, it would be hard to cut the number of toilets here," he said.
Stellantis declined to comment on the report.
A tempest in a teapot? Maybe, but it certainly shows how in a company even as large as Stellantis, cost-cutting doesn't necessarily mean abandoning projects or laying off employees; every little bit helps.
Stellantis will present its business plan in late 2021 or early 2022. We'll know more at that time about where the company and its brands are headed in the next few years.