What is at stake at GKN Florence? And why now?
On 9 July 2021, the automotive factory GKN Florence made the Italian news: on that day, one email fired all of its 422 workers. This sparked a struggle that will go down in history: the factory takeover by the GKN workers’ permanent assembly, the Insorgiamo (Let’s rise up) slogan, the convergence between labour and environmental struggles, and much more.
Those layoffs were defeated. However, they gradually came back in a different form, that of layoff-by-attrition; silent, undeclared, but equally effective.
By now, 220 jobs have been shed, 90 of them this last year, after the arrival of the new owner, Francesco Borgomeo, who bought GKN Florence in December 2021. He’s GKN’s former advisor and the agreement between the two remains confidential. He made gigantic promises but, throughout an infinite series of meetings and delays, nothing materialised, neither an industrial plan nor an investor. The public authorities de facto tolerated this game: at every institutional meeting they demanded limitless patience, and invoked more patience at every limit.
The GKN Factory Collective denounced this immediately as the “stewed frog tactic”: the frog is cooked slowly, without even noticing it. When she finally discovers the trick, she has no more forces to leap away.
For 20 months, the permanent assembly has been the same, and with the same objective: preserving an industrial resource, defending the jobs. The employers’ objective has also remained unchanged: kicking out the workers to close the factory. Perhaps financial speculation has replaced real estate projects.
Against all odds, however, the permanent assembly is resisting. The bosses’ offensive is thus becoming harsher, shifting from attrition to siege. Siege “by hunger”: since November 2022 the wages are not being paid. This amounts to an annihilation of the national and plant-level collective agreements, that is, rights conquered with 60 years of struggles, inherited from the old Novoli FIAT. If they dare to act this way, openly, in a national dispute, what happens then every day in the small factories, in the warehouses, in the fields, in seasonal tourism?