UPDATE 1-Fiat scores narrow win in key contract vote

* Landmark contract gets 54 pct support at Mirafiori plant

* Deal limits strikes, curb absenteeism

* Fiat promised to invest 1 billion euros if deal backed

(Recasts with vote results)

By Francesca Piscioneri and Lisa Jucca

MILAN, Jan 15 (BestGrowthStock) – Carmaker Fiat SpA (FIA.MI: ) won
narrow backing from its workers for a groundbreaking contract
that limits strikes and absenteeism in exchange for investment
in Italy, unions said on Saturday.

Workers in a referendum at Fiat’s historic but loss-making
Mirafiori factory in Turin voted 54 percent in favour of the new
contract, a spokesman for the FIM union said.

Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who engineered the
Italian carmaker’s 25 percent stake in Chrysler and transformed
Fiat from an ailing conglomerate, had threatened to deploy the
cash abroad if workers reject the changes. [ID:nLDE6BU09S]

The deal had been approved by most plant unions but rejected
by the left-wing Fiom. The deciding factor was support from
white-collar workers, union spokesmen said.

“A 46 percent ‘no’ vote seems tremendous to me. To make good
cars, you don’t need conflicts of this type,” Fiom Turin
representative Giorio Airaudo told Reuters.

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FACTBOX on the vote and Mirafiori: [ID:nLDE70B26V]

FACTBOX: Fiat plants in Italy: [ID:nLDE6BM0FS]

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UNPRECEDENTED OVERHAUL

The contract is part of a Fiat-led unprecedented overhaul of
Italian labour relations, which have been based on national
deals rather than on a plant-by-plant basis.

If workers accept the new contract, the company has pledged
to invest 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to build new, high-end
Alfa Romeo and Chrysler models at Mirafiori, Fiat’s oldest plant
and a symbol of Italian industry.

“Now the industrial plan for Mirafiori will go ahead.
Marchionne has to quickly deploy the investment, as he
promised,” FIM national secretary general Bruno Vitali told
Reuters.

More than 96 percent of workers took part in the referendum
on Thursday and Friday.

The contract has already been agreed at Pomigliano, another
of Fiat’s five Italian car factories, all of them loss-making.
But support back then surpassed 60 percent of voters.

However, Fiat, Europe’s No. 6 carmaker by market share and
Italy’s biggest industrial group, also needs the deal to work in
order to safeguard sales in its home market.

The deal is part of a 20 billion euro “Fabbrica Italia” plan
to double domestic production by 2014. It targets widespread
absenteeism by curbing pay for those who take repeated sick
leave around holidays and by ending wildcat strikes.

It cuts the number of breaks per eight-hour shift to three
from four and raises the number of shifts to 18 a week from 15.
Fiat can also call on each worker for 120 hours of overtime per
year without union approval.

Mirafiori makes the Punto model and needs to roll out new
models to survive.

Fiat’s European sales fell 17 percent last year and its
market share dropped to 7.6 percent from 8.7 percent in 2009.
(Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jon Hemming)