Italian workers strike in Lombardy over coronavirus safety issues
Office lights of the Lombardy region headquarters building in Milan, northern Italy, compose the Italian words 'State a casa' (Stay home), Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Government emergency measures have decreed nearly 60% of the workforce is still "essential," meaning workers still have to report for duty -- meaning most can't "state a casa." On Wednesday, workers went on strike demanding the government look after their safety and not the profits of employers. | Luca Bruno / AP

Italian workers took strike action over coronavirus safety issues Wednesday with the government accused of putting lives at risk by deeming almost 60% of the country’s workforce as “essential.”

Metalworkers’ unions called the action on Monday, raising concerns that non-essential companies, including call centers and weapons factories, had been exempted from government orders to close after pressure from bosses’ organization, Confindustria.

Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) national secretary Maurizio Acerbo said that an estimated 7.5 million workers—57.3% of the Italian workforce—were classed as essential under emergency legislation.

Strike action in the Lombardy region was solid, with mass participation of women reported as the unions shut down “non-essential production activities.”

The FIOM metalworkers’ union reported that between 60 and 90% of workers across the region joined the strike, with those in other sectors calling in sick, bringing production to a virtual halt.

It said that the government must enter talks and revise the list of essential workers to contain the spread of the disease in Lombardy, Italy’s worst affected region, with 5,476 deaths—62%  of the country’s fatalities.

FIOM said it would stop production in Lombardy—the industrial and financial heart of Italy—for 10 days unless the government took immediate action. The Italian General Confederation of Labour has warned of coordinated national strike action over the safety fears as the country struggles to cope with the outbreak.

The Czech Republic sent 110,000 face masks to Italy earlier this week after it had been accused of stealing an initial shipment sent by China. Beijing has led global relief efforts, sending tons of aid and medical experts to the most-affected countries, while the European Union has been accused of intransigence.

Serbian President Alexander Vucic last week accused the EU of hypocrisy and said that European solidarity was a “fairy tale.”

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.