Italian workers to strike after bosses put profits over health with coronavirus loopholes
A worker takes away a coffin in the Crematorium Temple of Piacenza, Northern Italy, saturated with corpses awaiting cremation due to the coronavirus emergency, March 23. Though the health situation is dire, unions say some employers are exploiting "essential services" loopholes in government shutdown decrees. | Claudio Furlan / LaPresse via AP

Metalworkers in Italy’s Lombardy region are set to walk out for 24 hours on Wednesday.

The region’s three main metalworker unions—FIOM, FIM, and UILM—warned that bosses are exploiting loopholes and exceptions in a government decree that forces businesses to close due to the coronavirus.

They said that the government list “has been excessively extended, covering areas of dubious importance” with companies given “excessive discretion” to apply for exemptions.

Lombardy is one of the worst-hit regions in Italy with at least 5,476 people having died from coronavirus—62% of the country’s fatalities. Government figures showed a total of 63,927 confirmed cases on Monday, up by 4,789. Despite authorities suggesting that cases were rising in smaller numbers, the situation remains critical.

Italy’s health service is struggling to cope with serious cases. As many as 3,204 people remain in intensive care, and the number of health workers dying from coronavirus stands at 23, with almost 3,000 infected.

A government decree signed on Sunday said all but “essential” businesses must close until April 3, setting out a long list of exceptions deemed vital to keep Italy’s supply chain running.

Yet call centers are refusing to shut down, despite the death of a 34-year-old man earlier this month working in a non-essential company.

At least 231 arms and munitions factories, supplying weapons that maim and kill, are believed to be operating, compared with just one factory making much-needed ventilators.

Workers inside a factory in Casalpusterlengo, near Lodi in Northern Italy, wait to be tested for virus infection. | Luca Bruno / AP

Unions warned that the “life and health of the people” is being abandoned in the pursuit of profit. They accused the government of “yielding to undue pressure from Confindustria,” Italy’s business lobby, which warned the country risked losing about €100 billion ($108 billion USD) a month because of the closures.

All factories not directly linked to Italy’s creaking health sector are set to shut today, with the chemical and textile workers union Uiltec also set to join the strike.

The Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) warned that the concept of “essential” has been read from a business point of view. “So millions of people are living a double life: Saturday and Sunday, as citizens to defend themselves against contagion they can’t even take a walk in the park. On Monday, they live as workers, and so will crowd buses and trams and go to work, exposing themselves and others,” it said.

PRC national secretary Maurizio Acerbo accused the government of “stabbing workers in the back.”

“Confindustria is the main contagion vehicle in our country. The absence of principles and the arrogance of Italian capitalism does not justify the cowardice of the government,” he said, urging “maximum support for the strikes.”

Morning Star


Steve Sweeney
Steve Sweeney

Steve Sweeney writes for Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain. He is also a People's Assembly National Committee member, patron of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign, and a proud trade unionist. Steve Sweeney escribe para Morning Star, el diario socialista publicado en Gran Bretaña. También es miembro del Comité Nacional de la Asamblea Popular, patrocinador de la campaña Paz en Kurdistán y un orgulloso sindicalista.