Health not profits! Italian union calls 32-hour strike amidst pandemic

Readers in the U.S. may be under the impression that everyone in Italy is shut up in their homes since the government declared a state of emergency over the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. But millions of nonessential workers are still being forced to report to work by the Conte regime and the bosses. Here’s an example of how workers are fighting back.

The Basic Union Syndicate (Unione Sindacale Di Base – USB) of Italy has called a 32-hour strike in nonessential industrial sectors, calling for a halt to factory production and a guarantee of workers’ health and wages.

The World Health Organization has declared a state of global pandemic; however, as the situation in our country grows more serious every day, the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has bowed again to Confindustria [General Confederation of Italian Industry], which insists on imposing the opening of all sectors, including nonessential ones.

Scrolling through the Prime Ministerial Decree of March 11, it turns out that industries, banks, call centers, TLC, commerce, logistics companies and most public offices will remain open. That is, millions of workers will continue to be forced to go to work while there is an epidemic going on.

In most cases, workers are not provided with the minimum tools for personal protection, and few companies sanitize their workplaces.

In the Decree of March 11, there are bland provisions, “smartworking” is unusable by those in production, and the invitation to close only departments unessential for production is provocative, as are many of the measures borne by workers, such as the use of holidays.

To deal with this emergency, drastic measures are required that are necessary for workers to safeguard health and wages. Therefore, we call for:

  • A temporary halt to all industrial activities except those strictly connected to the fight against the pandemic; 
  • Activation of social safety nets, including full wages; 
  • The adoption, and control by the relevant bodies, of all necessary measures corresponding to the levels of risk linked to specific work situations.

The USB has repeatedly urged the government, without receiving any response, and as we go back to forcefully ask for a meeting at Palazzo Chigi [the prime minister’s residence], we reiterate the workers’ right to strike to defend their safety, wages and general well-being.

The USB therefore calls for a first 32-hour general strike package of nonessential industrial sectors for each shift from March 12th. This package is renewable and can be increased beyond 32 hours at the local and company level.

Rome, March 12, 2020

Translated for Struggle-La Lucha by Greg Butterfield

Source: Contropiano