Fiat workers protest outsourcing

TURIN, Italy -- Several hundred protesting workers from struggling Italian automaker Fiat blocked traffic and busloads of figure skaters heading to the European Championships on Thursday.

Angry about job outsourcing, workers blew whistles or shouted
into megaphones on the main road in front of the Palavela ice arena
built for next year's Winter Olympics.

The demonstration caused inconveniences for stars such as world
champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, and defending champion Brian
Joubert of France, who were dropped off over a half mile from the

Demonstrators wearing khaki Fiat work jackets marched from their
plant to the arena, which is hosting its first competition.

"The 2006 games are not the only thing that should be important
right now," said Rosa Carlino, who wore a union flag as a cape,
and an "I Love Fiat" pin.

Protesters fear the company's plans to make cars in Iran will
trigger job losses in Italy. They also worry that Turin's
preparation for the Olympics will overshadow the problems at
Italy's largest private-sector employer.

Valentino Castellani, chief of the Turin Olympic organizing
committee, arrived late to a news conference because of the
demonstration. He apologized for delays.

"This is not against the games," Castellani said. The workers
"are concerned for their future."

The International Skating Union put out a statement warning that
another demonstration could be staged on Friday. They advised
participants to set off from their hotels earlier than usual.

After years of losses, Fiat is trying to turn around its auto
division. On Wednesday, the company announced that it signed a deal
to manufacture and sell several models in Iran. Production is due
to start in the latter half of this year.