Italian PM backs challenge to US-owned company shifting out of country

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Rome, Feb 23 (IANS/AKI) Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday voiced support for his Industry Minister Carlo Calenda’s “robust” challenge to Whirlpool unit Embraco’s plan to shift production to Slovakia with the loss of some 500 jobs in Italy.

Meanwhile, representatives from Italy’s UILM and FIOM unions on Thursday abandoned talks with Whirlpool unit Embraco in the northwest city of Turin after the company refused to reinstate nearly 500 sacked workers at its plant.

“Something isn’t working and Calenda is doing just the right thing by fighting this case in such a robust way,” Gentiloni said on Italian TV talk show Porta Porta.

Calenda this week took up the Embraco case with the European Commission see if Slovakia has breached European state aid rules and if Rome can be allowed to intervene to save the Riva di Chieri plant without breaching those same rules.

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“EU structural funds can’t be used to get companies to set up in a country: that’s unfair competition and that is what we are checking with (competition) commissioner (Margrethe) Vestager,” Gentiloni said.

The US-owned electrical appliances manufacturer last month announced its decision to close its factory in Riva di Chieri, near Turin, with the loss of 497 jobs and to switch production to its plant in Slovakia.

Embraco has refused requests by the Italian government and trade unions to reverse its decision and re-instate the sacked workers at its Riva di Chieri plant, prompting Calenda rule out further talks with the company’s management.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano is asking the Slovak government for explanations on Embraco’s planned delocalisation.

–IANS/AKI

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