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ITALY: RESISTANCE MOUNTS AGAINST TECHNOCRAT RULE

By Dave Stockton

Italian workers have downed tools as political opposition grows to labour reforms. Unelected Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, is facing serious opposition to his plans to “free up” labour contracts. In fact, as with similar “reforms” in Spain, his aim is to allow employers to sack workers with near-impunity, as they can in Britain.

The reforms amend Article 18 in the labour code, which obliges employers found to have unjustly sacked workers to rehire them. The measures follow hard on the heels of austerity measures and cuts to pensions.

Monti claims that the measures will “create a dynamic, flexible and inclusive labour market, one able to contribute to the country’s economic growth, create good working conditions, stimulate development of businesses”.

In reality, they are a massive attack on the rights, living standards and working conditions of Italian workers. Their aim is not only to give bosses the right to sack even more workers but to break the well-organised sectors like the metal workers of the FIOM and to slash real wages even further.

After four months of a relatively easy ride, thanks to the support of all the main parties, including the Democratic Party, and the passivity of the main union federations, Monti is now beginning to face a mounting wave of resistance.

On 22 March, FIOM, the metalworkers’ section of the six million strong CGIL, the largest and one of the more militant of the Italian union federations, launched a countrywide day of action in protest against the attacks on labour rights.

Factories struck in the Milan area. In La Spezia and Genoa, workers from shipbuilder Fincantieri struck and occupied their factories. In Pisa, strikers at the Piaggio factory blocked the Florence-Pisa-Livorno motorway. In the far south, workers took action at the petrochemical plants of Priolo, Melilli and Augusta in Sicily, at the Indesit plant in Caserta, near Naples, and at factories in Taranto in the heel of Italy.

‘Precarious’ contract workers demonstrated outside Monti’s office in the Palazzo Chigi, in Rome, to expose his claims that his reforms will create more full-time jobs. More than 30 percent of 18 to 24-year olds in Italy are unemployed, and only about 57 percent of Italians have a job, one of the lowest employment rates in the euro zone.

The protests were accompanied by a call from the CGIL for a national stoppage – 16 hours of rolling strikes. Under pressure to back down from the media, the CGIL’s first woman secretary general, Susanna Camusso, said: “There is no element that makes us go back on this decision. On the contrary, it must be reinforced.” At first, the less militant federations, the CISL and the UIL, supported the “reform”. Now, all three have agreed to a joint national demonstration on April 16 and the UIL metalworkers’ section (UILM) has promised a four-hour national stoppage.

Clearly there is a developing mass pressure from below on the union bureaucracies. Nevertheless, they are trying to divide the forces of the working class and divert them into a series of half-day, or one-day actions that will not be enough to force Monti to back down.

As in Greece, Spain and Portugal, only an all out strike can stop these savage attacks on trade union rights and social gains, and drive the austerity regime from power.

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