Hundreds march in Rome against sale of Whirlpool plant to Swiss company

Whirlpool, on September 17, announced that it would sell its Napoli plant to the Swiss-owned Passive Refrigeration Solutions, putting at least 420 jobs at risk

October 05, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Hundreds march in Rome against sale of Whirlpool plant to Swiss company
Over 1,000 people took part in protests in Rome demanding government intervention in the Whirlpool issue.

On October 4, hundreds of workers from various Whirlpool plants across Italy and political and social activists marched to the ministry of economic development in Rome. They were protesting the proposed closure of the company’s plant in Napoli, which will lead to 420 workers losing their jobs. Activists from several metal workers’ unions, including the Italian Federation of Metalworkers Employees (FIOM-CGIL), the Base Unions in Italy (USB), the UILM Campania, FIM-CISL and the political coalition, Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), participated in the march, expressing solidarity with the workers.

According to reports, more than 1,000 people took part in the protest, denouncing the closure of the Napoli plant. They demanded government intervention to save the jobs of the affected Whirlpool workers.

Whirlpool announced the sale of its Napoli plant to the Swiss-owned Passive Refrigeration Solutions (PRS), which is involved in the production and sale of refrigerated containers, on September 17. Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Giuliano Granato of the national coordination of Potere al Popolo condemned the sale and traced a pattern of similar acts by Whirlpool in other places. “Whirlpool claims that the new owners will renew the production and invest more and that all the workers will be hired again with the same money and same rights. But recent history tells us otherwise,” he said.

Granato cited the examples of Whirlpool-owned units in Riva di Cieri (the Brazilian company Embraco) and in Amiens, which were similarly sold off with promises that the new owners would reactivate production. “However, two years later in Amiens and a year-and-a-half later in Riva di Cieri, nothing has happened. The employees have no work and the state is paying a lot on terms of unemployment benefits,” he said. He recalled that in October 2018, Whirlpool had assured the Italian government that they would invest 250 million Euros in their plants in Italy. But now they are going ahead with selling the plant.

The workers are demanding that the government prevent Whirlpool from selling the plant. The alternative demand, Granato said, was for the government to expropriate the plant and along with the workers, decide if the same form of production should resume or fresh investments be made for some other form of production.

The secretary general of UILM Campania, Antonio Accurso, asserted at the march that Italy cannot continue as a country where multinational companies are allowed to enrich themselves for as long as possible and then flee from their commitments at will. Echoing this sentiment, Granato said that the Whirlpool issue was part of a larger trend of multinationals arriving in Italy, obtaining millions from the national and local governments for setting up plants and then leaving. “This is now a problem in many western countries and the Whirlpool workers’ struggle is also part of an attempt to engage with these developments,” Granato said.

On September 18, workers of the Whirlpool plant in Napoli had blocked the Napoli-Pompeii-Salerno motorway to protest the proposed sale of the plant to the Swiss firm.