Micron is laying off 419 employees in Italy. It started a “procedure of mass lay-off” that, if it’s not stopped before April, will send home these workers, that represent about half of the Italian Micron employees.
This contradiction (“What? We are doing fine and you’re firing us?”) can be explained when you take a look at Micron history, where we find out that they already used the same tactic: acquire and sack, buy a site and close another. In 2008 and 2009 they lay off more than two thousand people in USA, in 2012 they closed a site in Israel employing 1300 people, in 2013 the Avezzano site in Italy was sold at the last moment, otherwise it would have been closed. Eventually in 2013 they announce global lay-offs of around 1500 employees, and they keep the promise when in this January they announce the layoff of 419 between researchers, engineers and workers.
Today there’s a meeting at Italian Minister of economic development, where both Micron and STMicroelectronics (the company I work for) were summoned.
STMicroelectronics, aka ST, is involved because almost everyone in Micron Italy come from there: they were my colleagues. The story is that 6 years ago ST “detached” a part of itself to create a new smaller company together with Intel (it was called Numonyx and produced memories). The people moved into the new organization had legitimate doubts: “Are you dividing us to sack us?”, but ST contracted with Italian Government to take care of future occupation problems of these people. Then 2 years later the smaller company was sold to Micron, and the doubts became stronger (“They’ll sack us like they usually do”). ST now can declare that they have no duty to help because the company was sold to Micron, and they can also declare to not have the money to help.
As usual, to do anything you need money, but where do we take this money? One answer is an European program (called Horizon 2020) of 80 billions Euros to invest in sectors such as microelectronics, in which ST and Micron work. If the Government and the regions decide to invest in microelectronics, they can benefit from this money to solve (or at least mitigate) this problem immediately, and create employment and profit in the long run. Microelectronics is about cutting-edge technology, it’s a growing market that employs diverse people such as workers, engineers, researchers, marketing and managers; it fits well with Italian position of a G7 country that in order to fight the globalization can bet on technical excellence both in terms of academics and specialized workers. ST is controlled evenly by Italy and France, and they told me French Government is already investing 4 times what Italy is investing. The practical effect is that French fabs are more loaded and they keep the pace of technological advance, while Italian fabs will be less and less relevant. Also French labs will have more space, bigger budget and better equipment (there’s a bit of envy, I admit it).
Today workers are protesting in various parts of Italy, for example Agrate and Catania, where the biggest Italian sites of ST and Micron are.
Personally I decided to share this story because it involves me closely. Recently other colleagues that I worked with day by day have been laid off, because their consulting company closed. In Italy the employment for electronic sector is reducing, and because of this I watched these friends in a difficult situation that I don’t want to happen to other 419 people now, or to who know how many others in the future.
In conclusion, there are many reasons today to raise my voice:
- Micron is making a choice that, although legally OK, creates a social problem. It’s right to try to collaborate and try to avoid the lay-offs.
- ST has made commitments in the past that, for reasons that can be either accepted or considered “loopholes”, can decide to not follow. It’s important to persuade ST to put on the table the resources to help the people in this situation.
- The Italian Government and the regions have the possibility to draw from European funds and integrate them with investments. It’s reasonable and far-sighted to request that a market such as microelectronics should be boosted like it’s happening in France.
- The past Italian Government hinted at the possibility to sell its ST shares. Well, that would leave more open to similar “procedures of mass lay-off” also the ten thousand employees of ST Italy (myself included). It’s essential to remind the Government of the effects of these choices.