Launch of Maserati SUV brings hope to Turin car workers

Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:11pm EST
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By Agnieszka Flak and Gianni Montani

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) - Hundreds of workers from Fiat's sprawling Mirafiori plant in the Italian city of Turin hope Maserati's first sport-utility vehicle will finally change their fortunes for the better and end years of layoffs.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) FCHI.MI started production of the Maserati Levante on Monday, a vehicle which is part of its strategy to use spare capacity in Italy to make high-end cars for export, and compensate for lost sales at home.

For Giuseppe Baldari, 49, the luxury Maserati to be unveiled at the Geneva car show on Tuesday and reach European dealers in May has already brought some solace.

Hired by Fiat in 1987 to ferry materials to the busy assembly lines in Mirafiori, Baldari was temporarily laid off in 2010 - kept on the books but only earning a fraction of his salary and spending much of his time at home.

But in December he was back full-time at FCA test driving the long-awaited Levante SUV and he is now part of a new department at the company devoted to testing new models.

"I can finally bring a full pay check home at the end of the month and that's a huge comfort," Baldari said.

Near Mirafiori, a vast plant that was Italy's industrial heartland and once employed 50,000 people on its assembly lines alone, furloughed workers spoke of holidays put on hold and long waits between calls to do an extra day's work here and there, to top up a basic monthly net pay of some 800 euros ($875).

"When you wake up in the morning and don't know what to do ... you feel useless," said an emotional Giovanni Comparetto, a father of two. "I had to rely on others to send my daughter to university and let me tell you, that's not pleasant."   Continued...

An FCA worker is seen in front of Mirafiori plant in Turin, February 24, 2016. Picture taken on February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino