Need an Italian engineer? You can buy one on eBay.

With unemployment at 13 percent, what’s an out-of-work Italian engineer to do? Sell himself on eBay, apparently.

That’s what 419 workers facing layoffs at American factories in Italy have decided to do starting April 7, the day Idaho-based microchip-maker Micron plans to cut 40 percent of its Italian workforce.

In Italy, where “scioperi” or “strikes” are as commonplace as gelato, red wine and men in finely tailored suits, the move might attract more attention than conventional means of protest.

“It’s very hard to find work in Italy so we thought we’d attract publicity through eBay, not only with the hope of finding a job but also to bring attention to our case,” Giovanni Apollonio, a package engineer at the firm’s Monza and Brianza plant in Lombardy, told Europe’s English language news network, The Local.

The workers’ eBay stunt is apparently a last-ditch effort to save their jobs as support for their cause has waned. A nationwide strike of all microelectronics workers scheduled for March 7 was scaled down to a 40-person protest and postponed to March 13 to be staged outside the “Europe 2020 Strategy for Growth” conference in Naples, reported Forbes contributor Jim Handy.

Micron announced last August it would cut 5 percent of its global workforce, or about 1,500 workers, Electronics Weekly reported. Italian workers were angered when their factories were singled out for a third of the cuts, especially since Micron shows no sign of financial trouble, having doubled its revenues last quarter.

“Micron has said that one purpose of the reorganization is to align its resources with where it has manufacturing sites and customers,” OF Week reported.

At first Micron said it would offer severance payments to the Italians but 24 hours later reneged on that promise, Electronics Weekly reported, adding that the company offers severance to workers laid off in other countries. The company has since agreed to pay 18 months severance to workers who leave voluntarily.

“Unions have angrily reacted to what has been compared to an act of piracy, from a U.S. company that bought a competitor (Numonyx) no more than four years ago, stripped it of patents, products and customers and now is proceeding with a delocalisation process,” one Micron employee told Electronics Weekly.

Workers called on the European Commission to use funds that are used to stimulate collaborative research and development projects with companies like Micron to save their jobs, the EE Times said.

They have found at least one sympathetic ear. “[Y]our decision to reduce your engagement in this field, at least in Europe, would be unfortunate in light of the excellent past collaboration between the European Commission and Micron,” wrote Antonio Tajani, vice president of the European Commission in a letter to Micron’s top executives, noting that Micron has benefitted from the EU financing its research activities.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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