Italy: Statement By FdCA Labour Commission

Italy: Statement by FdCA Labour Commission

The new year has started with struggle and repression. The government's economic policies are dramatically being revealed for what they truly are. Large cracks are also starting to appear within the unions. Real inflation remains above 5.5%, while wages and pensions are falling behind. Jobs are more and more precarious thanks to Law 30. Government policies are more and more openly in favour of the bosses and high profits to the detriment of the weaker elements of the population. These are the hallmarks of a definite social project which the Berlusconi government is setting up on the neo-liberal foundations laid by previous (centre-left) governments.

On the union front, the fractured unity (more apparent than real) between the three big unions, following the signature of the Pact for Italy by the CISL and UIL, was followed by a progressive phase of rapprochement with the CGIL, both in the managing of contract renegotiations in certain important sectors such as the civil service and the railways, and in their substantial acceptance of the contents of the Pact as far as certain central elements are concerned, such as Article 13 and Law 30.

This gave rise within the CGIL to a sort of schizophrenia among its member unions with regard to contract renegotiations. While the FIOM continues its struggle against the contract signed separately by the FIM and the UILM, a federation like the FILT has been fighting tooth and nail for a new contract for its railway worker members which is nothing short of indecent. This contract contains within it all the hallmarks of the Pact for Italy, the very pact that the confederation (CGIL) has been battling, even going so far as to break ranks with the other unions over the question. And that's not all. The FILT then went and signed a contract for railway workers which was totally against their wishes and therefore seriously insufficient regarding their demands. Naturally they ended up being ignored by their members who went on to organise mass strikes themselves, strikes which are still going on even though they are in violation of the law.

So, to summarize, the present situation looks something like this: the government is going ahead with its anti-social, anti-worker plans while the CGIL, CISL and UIL stammer quietly in the wings, politely enquiring if perhaps it would not be possible to go back to the good old days of government/union partnership deals ("concertazione"), even though the government considers that policy dead and buried. And now, in the midst of all this, we have the exemplary struggle of the transport workers. Exemplary because it is a mass struggle, organized from below. It is a struggle which has the potential to involve more and more sectors of the population and unmask a union and a centre-left (with all its various components, including the consumer organizations) who are by now quite clearly siding with the privatizations of public services and who care more for what has been called "Italy Inc." than for the needs of the workers and the people.

But what do we see, now that the workers have taken back the initiative autonomously, with the support of the grassroots unions who are finally able to express a united position and platform (as in the case of the local transport workers), or combative sectors such as the railway workers, who never tire of attacking the dramatic effects of the liberalization of a fundamental public service such as the railways and who obstinately fight against a disgraceful contract? Naturally, we see repression.

Disciplinary measures against bus drivers who went on strike before Christmas ignoring the labour draft (*). Suspensions. Police charges. Even the dismissal of shop stewards, union reps and ordinary workers who are so bold as to speak out in the media against the dangerous state of the public railways as a result of their virtual dismantling, with the CGIL, CISL and UIL as willing accomplices.

The sacking of four railway workers for having stated their opinion, on the "Report" television programme which was broadcast last autumn, should be seen as revenge on the part of the company and as a threat, the intimidation of all workers. It is an important step on the part of the railway company in its dealings with its employees. They have started with suspensions but, comforted by the contract signed with the approval of the big three unions and their hangers-on which allows for the immediate application of disciplinary measures, they soon reached the stage of collective sackings.

But behind these disgusting provisions, and by no means secondary in importance, lies an attempt to gag any form of social dissent. A government which has no problem in wiping out even the most elementary of rights, such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to engage in union activity, clearly would not have any difficulty whatsoever in persecuting with all possible means its opponents who choose the political struggle. And so we see persecution, provocation, "plots" and arrests, particulrly aimed at the more radical sections of the social opposition.

The Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici is involved through its members in the labour, political and social struggles which are shaking this country.

We are active members of these struggles, introducing into them and promoting libertarian ideas and practices. We express our total and unconditional solidarity with the local transport workers who have been subjected to disciplinary measures and with the railway workers who have been sacked. We believe it is essential that resistance funds be set up together with committees to manage them and we call for the launching of a national campaign aimed at revoking all the disciplinary measures and dismissals.

The greatest possible solidarity will be required, given the need to defeat the sinister attempts at criminalization, which seek to make all forms of self-organization a crime against the constituted order and "national security". The greatest mass mobilizations will be required if the repression is not to hit the workers in struggle. It will require committment on the part of all anti- bureaucratical and anti-authoritarian social and political forces we are to ensure that the unease and exasperation around us become a libertarian project for struggle and autonomy.

Genoa, 12th January 2004

Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici Labour Commission

* Labour draft: "precettazione", a law which permits the authorities to "call up" certain workers, obliging them to work under pain of prosecution.