Workers at Fiat’s historic Mirafiori plant in Turin face a key vote on Thursday aimed at boosting productivity and slashing employee benefits.
Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne claims the future of the company in Italy is at risk if the unions reject the plan.
He says he will put fresh investment into the plant and promise to build new models in Italy.
Marchionne has the backing of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a number of unions.
But hard-line leftist union Fiom, which can count on the support of just under 20 percent of workers at Mirafiori, vigorously rejected the labour agreement and called for a strike at the end of the month.
Their members held a candlelit vigil outside the factory in protest at the cost-cutting measures.
“They are diminishing people’s rights and freedom so we need to get out on the streets.” said one Fiat employee.
If workers oppose the changes, Marchionne says he will pull Fiat out of Italy and relocate to lower-cost countries.
The company is seeking ways to overhaul its loss-making Italians operations.
It won a similar ballot at its Pomigliano plant near Naples last year.