Berlusconi urged to help ailing shipyards
Italy's shipbuilding unions called on premier Silvio Berlusconi to get directly involved in government efforts to address the demand drought afflicting the industry.
In a joint statement issued after the latest meeting between economic development ministry officials and shipbuilding representatives, the three unions ? Fim, Fiom and Uilm ? said progress on moving promised government contracts through to the shipyards had been ?completely insufficient?.
Moves by state credit insurance organisation Sace to expand its availability to the industry had also not yet had the desired effect in tempering the impact of the crisis.
In mid-February, the government said it would accelerate a number of public contracts for new ships in response to difficulties in the sector, where the number of workers being laid off was rising fast and yards were in increasing danger of closure.
The public orders included contracts for the construction of two Coast Guard patrol boats and a new logistical support ship. In addition, the economic development ministry reiterated its interest in pushing forward with modernisation and expansion work at Fincantieri"s yards in Castellammare di Stabia, Palermo and Sestri Ponente.
Instead, the unions claim, two months on, the tender process for the Coast Guard vessels had not even begun, while the budget adjustment necessary to free up funds already set aside for the support ship had not been made. ?Further delays are inevitable, while other possible orders have disappeared without trace.?
The unions added that ?in the meantime, the crisis is deepening and an increasing number of workers are entering the government-run temporary layoff programme?. Fincantieri had recently announced additional layoffs, while Tuscan yard Nuovi Cantieri Apuania could start layoffs next month.
A source at Fincantieri confirmed that the company had recently informed the unions that up to 150 white collar workers ? 100 in Trieste and 50 in Genoa - would be temporarily laid off from May 3. Fincantieri estimates that absent significant further orders 1,600-plus workers would be in temporary lay-off as of the end of this year.
While meetings between industry representatives and the ministry have been productive, the situation now demanded extraordinary measures, the unions said, hence their appeal for the direct involvement of Mr Berlusconi.