Italian car workers fight for alternative green production plan

Workers at an Italian car parts factory that the multinational GKN corporation closed have launched an international appeal to support their idea to start a co-op producing cargo bikes and solar panels. By Simon Pirani


The factory, at Campi Bisenzio near Florence (Firenze), has been occupied since July 2021, when Melrose Industries, the asset-stripping corporation that took over GKN, announced it would close. Other GKN plants were also junked.

Negotiations with a possible new owner failed earlier this year. The 185 workers who remain at Campi Bisenzio are now threatened with the sack, and eviction from the building, on 1 January 2024.

They have issued an appeal to international supporters to help them raise 1 million euros for a co-operative that will keep the factory open: more than €315,000 has come in so far. Organisations are asked to buy 500 euro shares, and individuals to signify their readiness to contribute 100 euros and club together with others.

Climate activists’ action in support of the GKN workers.
Climate activists’ action in support of the GKN workers. See “About the photo”, below

Details of how to take part are on the Insorgiamo (We’ll Rise Up) web site.

The co-op will implement a plan, worked out with researchers and engineers, to shift production away from car parts to alternative technologies that help address the climate crisis: cargo bikes and solar panels.

That will take forward two years of efforts by the GKN workers to unite their struggle for their livelihoods with the global fight for a just transition to a post-fossil-fuel future. There have been demonstration with tens of thousands of participants, discussions and community engagement.

There’s an 8-minute movie, released this week by Reel News, explaining the background to the €1 million appeal. Highly recommended.

You can also follow the workers’ facebook feed and instagram account.

And there have been background articles published in English by News from BelowBerliner Gazette, also hereAngry Workers of the WorldProject PPPR, and Jacobin. All well worth reading.

□ About the photo, from the workers’ facebook feed: it shows climate activists who this week demonstrated support for the GKN occupation, on the Via de’ Tornabuoni, a street in Florence full of high fashion boutiques.

The activists’ message to the GKN workers said: “End of the month, end of the world: the same struggle. We stand with the factory, which was a centre for aid for flood victims during the flooding in Campi.”

The workers commented in response, on facebook: “Protecting the future, our environment and our jobs, our social rights and climate rights, can only be done with bodies. Our bodies.”

And they added: “Merry Christmas to the leaders of the Curia [local council] and the Italian government. We are the flashes of unity that shine light on your faults, and uncover your silences.”

□ Below is a statement by the GKN workers. Please do all you can to support them. SP, 22 December 2023.

Statement by the GKN workers: “To our entire solidarity network: towards the zero hour”1

This statement was published on the GKN workers’ web site in Italian. This English version is based on the translation is by Notes from Below, with thanks to them.

  1. Layoffs have resumed. Our time is running out. Any solidarity activity or support for GKN must now bear this in mind.
  2. The zero hour, as of today is 1 January, 2024: the layoffs will be final, and GKN will be permanently transformed into a site for property speculation.
  3. There is no third way: an empty GKN plant or a socially integrated factory. Either a symbol that “they” win, one way or another, sooner or later. Or an example that, here and now, “we can”. We’re on the edge of the abyss, where we either take flight or fall.
  4. We have no choice; this is our workplace. We will try to resist to the end. You have a choice: either just take note of how things have turned out, or actively engage with a concrete example striving for new power relations for the trade union movement, social justice, and the climate movement.
  5. We are aware of the context. We face global escalation of war and a massacre in Gaza. We are not the only business crisis, nor the only exemplary dispute. And we certainly don’t compete to be more visible or more urgent than everything else. We are just a tiny part of the whole. But we want to point out that, here and now, this tiny part has reached a conclusion. And now the decision must be made about what this conclusion will be. How important this conclusion is for overall power relations is for you to evaluate and decide.
  6. Communicating the different stages of the struggle is not simple. The opposition has equipped itself over time to pollute every narrative, confuse it, entangle it, and technicalize it. We must ask for extra attention from our supporters: follow our social media, join the GKN info groups on WhatsApp (write to +3478646481) or subscribe to our Telegram channel: On, you can find: a summary dossier of the different stages and the danger of property speculation, and all information about the cargobike project and the proposed system of popular shareholding.
  7. Bottom-up reindustrialisation is a tool of struggle, and the timing of this struggle is vital. All activities related to cargo-bikes, the photovoltaic plan, and popular shareholding must either accelerate now or become useless.
  8. We have no more time. We are no longer able to respond to individual proposals, invitations or activities. November is almost over, and December is a month made short by the holidays. We must drastically cut down on meetings, calls, initiatives. We are launching an Insorgiamo tour around the zero hour, to Rome, Milan, Padua, Naples, Turin. And on the international level: Vienna, Barcelona, perhaps Berlin, perhaps London. We ask all supporters to converge, to rise up on the dates that will be indicated.
  9. The roadmap towards zero hour must be characterized by moments of “high increasing convergence”: the Insorgiamo tour; a general strike on November 17 in Florence; on December 2 and 3 “we will be a choir”; and we call all of you again to GKN, on December 16th for a day of struggle. Keep yourselves free for actions throughout December to prevent zero hour, which as of today is set for December 31 at 00:00.
  10. In recent days, the issues of climate justice, social justice, mutualism, the socially integrated factory, care for the territory and the community, and the need for convergence or unity all seem to have come together in a few hours in Campi Bisenzio. It all seems apparently random. In truth, it is a sign that we have long been preparing for this time that is coming towards us. That we have made choices. Power relations are overwhelming, the context can overwhelm us, but you always have a margin of choice. You can’t choose when it rains, but you can choose what kind of person you will be in the rain. Let’s choose not to fail.


Source >> People & Nature blog


  1. In the Italian, the ‘x hour’, a partisan slang reference to the moment in which the Communist Party was to call on workers to prepare for the revolution ↩︎

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Simon Pirani is a writer and activist who blogs at His most recent book is Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption.

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