July 23, 2010

Portrait of an Italian worker.

This picture is hilarious. From an article about Fiat's efforts to instill a work ethic and the larger problem of the underperformance of the southern part of the euro zone.
“The less they work, the happier they are,” observed Vittorio di Giola, owner of the Caffetteria Vicky, a favorite haunt of Fiat workers on the Viale Alfa Romeo, Pomigliano’s main drag.

That view was acknowledged by some workers, union officials and even the town’s mayor, Raffaele Russo. “There are those who don’t miss a chance to miss work,” Mr. Russo said.
Just last month, Fiat erected large television screens inside the factory when Italy played in the World Cup to encourage employees to come to work, said Mr. Nacco, the longtime worker there. Still, some people did not show up. “And Fiat was paying us to watch the game,” he said.

57 comments:

Rialby said...

death spiral

Hoosier Daddy said...

Never ceases to amaze me that a whole bunch of people have no problem at all wearing a symbol of an ideology that is responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people.

Freeman Hunt said...

"C'mon, now! Give me stuff!"

Moose said...

You mean the hammer -n- sickle t-shirt? Takes me right back to college in the 80's...

Pogo said...

"Portrait of a US Gummint worker."

bagoh20 said...

The picture says it all. Is there any doubt about how thankful you would be to have that guy on the payroll - to argue with him everyday about why he should do his job, and why you won't give him something for nothing? Productive people need to refuse to bail out their parasitic comrades, for the benefit of them both.

Hoosier Daddy said...

After reading that article I can't help but think of this line from Ghostbusters

Dr Ray Stantz: Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*.

traditionalguy said...

What these workers need is Green Jobs, which is another communist myth. In communism the workers pretend to work and the Government pretends to pay them.

Scott M said...

This amounts to one of those thousand small cuts we keep hearing references to. The stark truth is that humans have surprisingly immense reserves of willpower and strength. Those incredible attribute atrophy and die, however, if not given constant challenge.

Pogo said...

Portrait of a fungible source of US Gummint revenue.

Pogo said...

Shirkers of the world, unite!

Sixty Grit said...

Pogo - you are correct - remember, the US government took over Chrysler, and now our tax dollars prop up that bankrupt, corrupt organization, and those dollars ultimately flow to Fiat, who "partnered" with Chrysler.

Change the hand gesture to one more appropriate to Detroit and there you have it - portrait of an American employee, bought and paid for by the American tax payer. You really can't use the word "worker".

Palladian said...

Europe could afford to be a history-themed theme park in the past. They had so many people to prop them up. But now that we in America are poised to become Europe II, who's going to keep paying for everyone to drink Chianti and buy wooden bead necklaces?

In other words, who props up Italy when their crutch has gone on strike too?

El Pollo Real said...

Their rally cry:

Sciopero!

bagoh20 said...

I don't know if there is any cure for the excess levels of productivity, prosperity, and entitlement in the western world today. Obama may be the savior after all, and the collapse he's working on is a prophet's gift to us.

Scott M said...

I don't know if there is any cure for the excess levels of productivity, prosperity, and entitlement in the western world today. Obama may be the savior after all, and the collapse he's working on is a prophet's gift to us.

Aren't you required, by act of Congress, to switch to an off-colored font when writing sarcasm?

Sixty Grit said...

Or, to further el Pollo's thread, "morte al capitalismo". Oh yeah, everything sounds better in Italian...

WV: unobymle - one bymle, comrade.

David said...

I become more and more convinced that the secret to life is contained in the joke about the campers and the bear. "I don't have to run faster than the bear; I just have to run faster than you."

In context, American business and American workers don't have to be good, we just have to be better than the competition. So we should thank our lucky stars that this is the competition. Even the Obama Administration can't start with us and make that in 6 short years.

Fred4Pres said...

And they have to keep these bozos around? If they fired them they would perhaps figure out it is a good idea to go to work.

Jeeves said...

This anecdote contradicts a great deal of research regarding positive psychology.

I believe you have mentioned Csikszentmihalyi's research in the past.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The "southern part of the euro zone" needs a dose of the Protestant work ethic, or at least the Germanic work ethic...

Jeff with one 'f' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

"Aren't you required, by act of Congress, to switch to an off-colored font when writing sarcasm?"

I'm sure it's in a recent 2000 page bill somewhere. After a couple of those in a row, we got everything covered.

I wonder how many years it took our nation to write the equivalent number of pages of legislation that the current congress has. I would bet that since 2006, they have exceeded the previous 230 years output. The hardest working congress evah! The founders would be proud.

Scott M said...

Is this an example of geographic distance from the equator having anything to do with the work ethic? It would be easy to understand..."it's just too damned hot to work".

Personally, I'm all about working my ass off four days a week for a three-day weekend, or, failing that, an institutional siesta hour.

Who says grown-ups don't need naps.

lemondog said...

Not so hilarious:

July 5 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s debt, the highest in the euro region last year, remains a “potential time bomb” and the country is at risk of default unless it boosts productivity, Capital Economics said.

re: death spiral, watch what happens to US productivity when the US, to keep its economy going, is scrambling to buy dwindling supplies of crude oil at escalating prices, on world markets.

BTW how does congress critters productivity compare to that of Italy, Suggest an embargo of toilet paper into the Stalls of Congress.

bagoh20 said...

"Is this an example of geographic distance from the equator having anything to do with the work ethic? "

Somehow, I doubt that if that guy moved to Sweden, he would become a 100hr/wk entrepreneur.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Italy’s debt, the highest in the euro region last year, remains a “potential time bomb” and the country is at risk of default unless it boosts productivity, Capital Economics said.

Yet the usual suspects here seem to think we can continue to escalate our debt and everything will be just fine.

Maybe those brilliant economists like garage or hdhouse or alpha can esplain to a rube like me how more government debt is a good thing.

I'll wait.

Brian said...

Sigh. Well, it's no wonder that the most productive people are the ones who are on commission, or contract, generally speaking. When you've got job security, that's great for you, but not great if you need to produce to make other people productive.

Why do you think the fed. govt. contracts out so much work (technical work)? Usually, the reason given is that the govt. workers don't have the expertise. Why is that? They haven't worked in the private sector themselves.

Scott M said...

Somehow, I doubt that if that guy moved to Sweden, he would become a 100hr/wk entrepreneur.

I didn't mean individually. I meant culturally.

Brian said...

Somehow, I doubt that if that guy moved to Sweden, he would become a 100hr/wk entrepreneur.

Well he would if something happened, like, he missed a few meals. Or he was going to be evicted.

Why do you think the people coming from Latin America to work here (legal or not) are willing to work in 100+ degree weather roofing houses?

kalmia said...

Bob Porter: Looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately.

Peter Gibbons: Well, I wouldn't exactly say I've been missing it, Bob.

bagoh20 said...

It does seem somewhat to correlate, but Mexicans are some of hardest working people I know. It is cultural, I think. The geographical thing may be a result of the historical fact that northern people had to work hard, because the climate demanded more preparation for winter and that means working harder than you have to meet todays needs. A challenge that warmer climates don't have. We develop according to our challenges, or we go extinct. Just a theory.

Eric said...

In context, American business and American workers don't have to be good, we just have to be better than the competition.

That kind of thinking could lull you into a false sense of security. These people are not "the competition". The competition works twenty hours a day, six days a week out of a dimly lit basement in Guangzhou.

Kevin said...

Is this an example of geographic distance from the equator having anything to do with the work ethic?

Yep, just look at Singapore, which is on the Equator!

bagoh20 said...

"The competition works twenty hours a day, six days a week out of a dimly lit basement in Guangzhou."

Yep, and people who think they are not subject to that competition are learning otherwise. No matter what your job, there is a cheaper version of you somewhere. They just need to find your customer, which is getting easier.

That said though, my company does a lot of labor intensive, low skilled work, and we are doing great right now. We are growing and very profitable for the last year. There are niches, where imports are at a disadvantage, and the age old strategy of dealing honestly, and with the customer's needs in mind, still rules. Regardless, if we were a union shop, we would be bankrupt.

The Drill SGT said...

"Is this an example of geographic distance from the equator having anything to do with the work ethic? "

yes,

The folks in Bolzano, Milan, and Trento are fairly hard working...

Course those guys in Bolzano wear Lederhosen, drink beer and are Austrians with Italian passports

Joe said...


The competition works twenty hours a day, six days a week out of a dimly lit basement in Guangzhou.


Really 120 hours a week? Do they pay the mill owner to work there also?

What are they making? Is there actually a world or PRC market for it, or is it a subsidized product?

You might have missed the whole 1980's the Japanese are coming, the Japanese are coming thing, I didn't....I'll believe in this mythical Gaungzhou Worker when he appears.

lemondog said...

...where imports are at a disadvantage,...

When world market crude oil prices soar with sources become less readily available, cost of transporting foreign-made goods will rise obviating price disparity.

Scott M said...

Ocean freight, rated as cargo vs fuel, is the single most efficient way to transport goods (always has been) and will thus be the least impacted by global fuel costs. In response, they can just go nuclear. There are shipping companies working on that right now.

I see your point, but I also know the ocean freight business and know that they are among the most tenacious buggers on the planet.

Joe said...


In response, they can just go nuclear. There are shipping companies working on that right now.


Nuclear is NO substitute for conventional power....ask the USN. It's tremendously expensive. Oil is gonna have to be PRETTY HIGH to justify a move to nuclear power.

The US Navy adopted it because of issues of EFFECTIVENESS, not because of issues of EFFICIENCY.

Adam said...

Italy individual income tax rates 2010:

Tax (%) Tax Base (EUR)
23% 0 - 15,000
27% 15,001-28,000
38% 28,001-55,00
41% 55,001-75,000
43% 75,001 and over

Plus a 20% value-added tax.

IOW, if you're earning more than about US$90K, for every extra Euro you earn you get to consume about 0.45 Euros worth of actual stuff.

Palladian said...

All of the good, hard-working Italians emigrated to the United States about a century ago.

Joe said...

The Japanese may not be coming, but my Japanese built Honda Odyssey is the best damn car I've ever owned. (The Fiat my brother and I owned in college was the worse.)

Triangle Man said...

The competition works twenty hours a day, six days a week out of a dimly lit basement in Guangzhou.

Not for long they won't.

bagoh20 said...

"I'll believe in this mythical Gaungzhou Worker when he appears."

I've been in those factories. They are there. They are very capable and they are hard working. They took a lot of my business away, but that's how the real world works. You adapt, stay flexible, keep fighting. Don't waste time whining - they love when you waste your energy and drive that way.

lemondog said...

re: The Guangzhou Worker, is a striking worker 'tolerated' by the CP

Beijing, which normally stamps out any kind of grassroots movement fearing a threat to stability and Communist Party rule, appears to be willing to tolerate the strikes, in part because they dovetail with many wider political goals.

Higher wages help boost potential for domestic consumption, could rein in anger over a growing rich/poor gap, and help the country move up the value chain away from cheap manufacturing.

edutcher said...

He probably misses Mussolini. Even when they went to war, the Eyeties were known as the "Army of Love". They moved in on all of the girls who were abandoned when the men went off to the mountains to be partizans.

bagoh20 said...

Anybody read Italian? I wonder what that guy's shirt says. Looks like something about "handbook of death?"

lemondog said...

re: T-shirt, from Google translation of "DA SEMPRE L'IGNORANZA FA PAURA, ED IL SILENZIO E' UGUALE A MORTE"

"Ignorance is always afraid, and silence equals death"

LarsPorsena said...

"It does seem somewhat to correlate, but Mexicans are some of hardest working people I know.."

How's that working out for Mexico?

Scott M said...

"It does seem somewhat to correlate, but Mexicans are some of hardest working people I know.."

Are these Mexicans living and working in Mexico or here? Again, it's not a racial/ethnic thing. I was speaking culturally.

c3 said...

Yeah, I read this earlier. My two key quotes involved:

He wants to impose American-style standards

(talk about context!)


Embedded for generations here — and on other parts of Europe’s often-sweltering southern rim — is a lifestyle that values flexibility for workers.


So I wonder if the car companies who came to the US (i.e. Mercedes) said to themselves "Now this is the southern United States. You know what the hot climate does to workers"

Seems to have worked out for them ok

edutcher said...

Scott M said...

"It does seem somewhat to correlate, but Mexicans are some of hardest working people I know.."

Are these Mexicans living and working in Mexico or here? Again, it's not a racial/ethnic thing. I was speaking culturally.


The Blonde has a nephew living in the Phoenix area and he has nothing but good things to say about what hard workers Mexicans are.

bagoh20 said...

""It does seem somewhat to correlate, but Mexicans are some of hardest working people I know.."

"How's that working out for Mexico?""


The hard working ones don't live there anymore. And now it's such a mess they don't want to go back.

Adam said...

With apologies in advance for banging the same drum as upthread, I think that it's sensible to look at differences in the tax treatment of labor income in different countries before ascribing differences in work effort to culture.

In Mexico, the top marginal tax rate (35%) applies to anyone whose annual income exceeds US$8,700. The marginal rate hits 32% (!) at an income of about US$2,300. By contrast, in the US, the marginal rate is 10% on incomes below $8,375, and 15% on incomes between that amount and $34,000. The Mexican equivalent of Social Security taxes is a few percentage points lower than the US rate. Overall, if you're a Mexican with a strong desire to work, you'd do well to consider, um, relocating to the US.

lemondog said...

Taxes matter.

Wasn't there a recent hullabaloo over a basketball player who chose to leave NY state for Florida where the income taxes were significantly lower?

While I've little sympathy for overpaid sports players, I'm sympathetic to action taken to build/preserve ones wealth.

Looks like someone is attempting to shake congress critters awake to the fact that taxes matter.

Bernanke Says Extending Bush's Tax Cuts Would Maintain Economic Stimulus

SukieTawdry said...

After NAFTA passed, I read an article about the rules the Mexican government would impose on American companies locating there. The most onerous, in my opinion anyhow, was that since chronic absenteeism and tardiness were cultural, they would not constitute grounds for dismissal. Later I started reading about companies that were giving up on Mexico because they could never be sure who would show up for work nor what level of training and expertise would be available on any given day.

Along those lines, government officials in Norway have learned to their consternation that when government offers unemployment and disability benefits that rival compensation for actual work, a majority of people will opt for the former. Imagine that.

Some day we might learn that there is, in fact, no free lunch.