Fiat workers are paid to stay at home image

Due to the recession plaguing new cars sales, the workers of some of Fiat’s plants in Italy are being paid through a state-run program for workers on forced leave.

Thousands of European autoworkers whose jobs have been brought into question by a crisis that has sent car sales in the region plummeting to their lowest levels in decades are facing worst case scenarios as they have barely worked a few months in the last two years.

Still, some receive payments, as happens with those at Fiat Group. After shuttering a factory in Sicily in 2011, Fiat has avoided further closures and layoffs in its home country. Instead, it has left its five car factories there idle for extended periods to cut costs and prepare for an eventual recovery. Workers are paid to stay home. Last year, it produced fewer than 50,000 cars, not enough to provide work for the 5,500 people assigned to its assembly line.

Neither Fiat nor any other European automaker has followed the example of its U.S. peers and done the massive cutbacks needed to bring production in line with the slump in demand – even though sales are so bad that less than half the market’s auto factories operate at the minimum 75% of capacity needed to break even, according to consultants Alix Partners.