Make the Bosses Pay for the Crisis: Day of General Strike in Italy Mobilizes Workers and Students

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This Friday, a sector of militant and rank-and-file trade unionism carried out a major day of general strike in Italy, with a huge impact on logistics and education. Thousands of students joined in, with demonstrations in various cities.

Striking workers in Italy hold banner
Image: La Voce delle Lotte

Last Friday, a day-long general strike took place throughout Italy, called by the rank and file unions SI Cobas and Slai Cobas and by a sector of militant unionists gathered in the “militant workers’ assembly.” Students joined the workers’ mobilization from various cities, including Milan, Turin, Piacenza, Bologna, Rome, and Naples, with marches drawing hundreds of people.

The demands were meant to point an overall solution the current economic and pandemic crisis from a working class point of view, including:

  • A wealth tax of 10 percent for the richest 10 percent, to be invested in healthcare and in every sector that proved strategic in order to contain the virus;
  • Passing an effective protocol, unlike the one approved by the union bureaucracy. The new protocol has to be effective to prevent Covid -19 contagions in the workplace.
  • Closure of all companies in which health protections for workers are not guaranteed, and creation of workers’ committees to monitor compliance with the rules;
  • Immediate hiring of all doctors and nurses waiting for a position in the healthcare system that are suitable and qualified. All of the temporary healthcare workers must be converted to permanent positions and should have the right to unionize. We demand a reorganization of the national Health Care System in order to guarantee free and public health care for everyone, prevent diseases and contagions, and to protect workers in their workplaces. We also demand the expropriation of the private clinics and hospitals with no compensation to their owners and the suspension of all contracts between the state and private companies to provide health services that should be public and free. Stop any special state subsidy that favors private hospitals or clinics.
  • Immediate renewal of expired national labor contracts, with appropriate wage increases to raise workers’ living conditions. Strong disincentive to precarious and fixed-term contracts.

The Strike and the Political Crisis

The strike was concentrated mainly in the logistics sector, where the SI Cobas union is concentrated with a large majority of immigrant workers, but also in some industrial branches, and among road maintenance workers as in the Campania region. In several territories, the strike saw a large participation of TNT-FedEx workers, threatened by a plan of 6,000 layoffs in Europe, and of those in the Italian postal transport company SDA, who have been on strike for three days against a plan of relocations and layoffs.

Students from dozens of schools in various cities joined this day of struggle with their own demands, marching together with workers with a total participation of several thousand young people, plus a smaller sector of striking teachers. The students demand to be able to return to school as soon as possible, but in safe conditions, which is impossible without increasing school funding, guaranteeing free Covid tests in schools, increasing the number of teachers and school personnel, whose number is insufficient, and stabilizing labor contracts.

This day of struggle took place during a phase of parliamentary political crisis: the small liberal party of the former secretary of the Democratic Party (PD), Matteo Renzi, has left the government, and is managing to create a new government with the same parties as before (PD and the right wing populist 5 Star Movement), but with a greater weight of its line, openly liberal and loyal to the Confindustria “cure” [the industrial employers’ union] for the pandemic crisis.

The success of Friday’s day of struggle shows that there is a great potential for mobilization of the workers and youth which has not yet been expressed, and which is blocked in the first place by the criminal policy of the bureaucracy of the big CGIL-CISL-UIL unions, which has no interest in mobilizing its workers and the rest of the working class in a united struggle to make the bosses pay for their crisis.

Instead, we affirm that what we need is precisely a common program of struggle and a unified mobilization, without being limited by different union affiliations, which can unite the forces of the central sectors of the working class with those of the working youth, the students, and the women’s movement. Not just to defend from massive layoffs, cuts in wages, and to promote safety conditions at work, but to impose decisive and effective measures against the tragedy of the coronavirus. These measures will start with the struggle to snatch from Big Pharma CEOs’ hands the control of the global process of vaccination of the population, and to impose our entire program of demands, so that this crisis is paid for by the bosses and not by the working class.

 First published in Spanish on January 30 on La Izquierda Diario.

About author

Giacomo Turci

Giacomo Turci

Giacomo is a journalist from Rome and editor of our Italian sister site La Voce delle Lotte.