Workers in the Lombardy region and also across all of Italy are going on strike against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s orders to keep the country “open.” This is despite the devastating effects of the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the world with 7,500 dead. This measure expresses the clear class character of the Conte government, concerned with the losses of big corporations during this slow down of the economy, for he is clearly putting profits before people.
Conte and Union Leaderships Push to Keep Italy Open For Profits
After 18 hours of intense negotiations between the government and the union officials of Italy’s biggest union federations (CGIL, CISL and UIL), on March 14th Conte announced that “for the good of the country, for the protection of workers’ health. Italy does not stop.” The measure allowed for the shutting down of small businesses and the service industry, but it is forcing major “essential” industrial factories to keep open- with an excessively generous understanding of what falls into the “essential” category. This measure shows that what is “essential” for the Italian government is to ensure profits for the major corporations, and not the protection of the health of millions of workers and the social welfare of Italian working families.
Rank and File Workers Organize Wildcat Strikes for Social Welfare
In response, starting March 12th, several rank and file union networks, such as Frente di Lotta No Austerity (Front of Struggle Against Austerity), have reported that wildcat strikes are erupting throughout Italy, especially in Brescia and Lombardy regions, as workers are growing increasingly concerned and angry that neither the government nor the union officials are protecting their health and safety. These strikes were initially led by logistical workers, in particular workers of the Amazon warehouses, and also bank and chemical workers who were forced to go to work without basic sanitary protections such as masks, gloves, and disinfection of facilities.
The grassroots strike wave is now getting organized, and the push from below has forced an official strike by the main metalworkers unions (FIOM, FIM and IULM), in the Lombardy region, one of the areas most affected by the virus. In a joint statement, they are calling for a one-day stoppage on Wednesday, March 25th in all factories of the whole region that are not linked to the essential sectors of healthcare and production of goods for immediate need in the COVID-19 crisis. Paolo Pirani, national head of the Uiltec chemical and textile workers, declared that “the decree allows a lot of firms to remain open, many without the proper guarantees and safety norms, creating conditions not agreed with us and fanning a lot of concern among workers.” So far the three main unions of chemical workers (FILCTEM, FEMCA and UILTEC) have declared themselves strike-ready, as have the energy and textile sectors.
We Must Support Workers’ Welfare Strikes Internationally
Workers in the United States, for corporations such as Tesla, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon, are facing similar challenges and they are beginning to organize from below. Rank and file strikes of auto-workers forced the Big Three (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) to close the plants, but Tesla remains open. We must support all workers taking action for everyone’s welfare and survival, and demand immediate paid leave for all truly non-essential workers. All workers, regardless of their situation (salaried workers, self-employed, unemployed, on long-term contracts, seasonal workers, and so on) must receive 100% of their wages, and a minimum wage should be guaranteed for all, based on each country’s standard of living.
The labor unions affiliated to the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles, such as the CSP-Conlutas of Brazil and the Solidaire union in France, support the Italian workers on strike. Resistance is rising up around the world! The fight against Coronavirus is the highest priority! And with our Italian comrades of the PdAc (Partido di Alternativa Comunista) the Italian section of the IWL, who are fighting back against the Conte government that claims, “Italy does not stop!”, we respond: “Italy’s profits stop for us!”
Strike Call by the Lombardy Unions:
Facing Emergency Not Everything Is Necessary:
We Take Action to Defend Life and Healthcare
The Government Decree signed on March 22nd only takes into account part of the concerns raised by the CGIL, CISL and UIL unions. In fact many activities that are neither essential nor indispensable have been included in the list of those who can continue working. We have always advocated for putting worker’s health and safety as top priorities that come before everything else, but we realize the the government has conceded to the undue pressures of the Confindustria (General Confederation of Italian Industry), and that profits and the economy have been prioritized over the health and safety of workers.
This Is Not Going to Work!
The inclusion in the list of essential activities (now known as ATECO codes) of a series of activities that are not essential at all, decreases the power of the government decree, and reduces the to the bare minimum the number of workers who can “remain at home.”
This is why, following the call from the Regional and National Confederal secretariat, we consider it necessary to modify the current Decree and to ensure the health of everyone, and thus we declare a
Regional Strike for Wednesday March 25th 2020 in all the Labor Sectors Represented by the FILCTEM, FEMCA and UILTEC regional union locals, in all factories that are undertaking production that is either not truly essential or of public utility for the country, and in all the workplaces where the basic health and safety conditions are not met.
We demand all the Employers Associations and all Factories to have a sense of responsibility and not to increase the tension and exasperation among workers. We demand the use of the existing social safety nets to back the work-stoppage.
Milan, March 23rd 2020
The Regional Secretaries of the FILCTEM-CGIL Lombardia, FEMCA-CISL Lombardia and UITEC-UIL Lombardia