On Friday, January 29, workers across Italy organized a general strike demanding safety and rights at their workplaces, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The call for strike was given by unions, including the SI Cobas. Working class sections, including logistics workers, dockers, public transport workers, teachers and other school workers, health personnel and shop stewards, took part in the general strike. Earlier, several student groups and youth organizations including the Front of Communist Youth (FGC) organized a nationwide mobilization on Thursday demanding safety and resources in schools and in solidarity with the workers’ strike. Students in Rome marched to the Ministry of Education and protests also took place in Turin, Milan, Naples, Bologna, Siena, Padua and Cosenza, among other cities.
The protesting workers have demanded safety at workplaces through new COVID-19 safety protocols. The workers have also asked for renewal of expired collective bargaining agreements, an end to layoffs and dismissals, guaranteed wages for the unemployed, repealing of security decrees, residence permits for immigrant workers, end to gender discrimination and a truly free and accessible public national health system etc. In order to finance these measures, the workers have suggested the government to impose a “millionaire tax” on the richest 10% of the population.
The protesting students have demanded smaller and safer classrooms (classes of 15), more recruitment of teachers and support staff, increase in public transport, effective tracking of infections and free testing for students and school workers. The students have also stated that online classes are not an effective solution to overcome the crisis as lack of gadgets to access online classes infringes the right to study for a number of students from the working class background.
Ahead of the strike, SI Cobas union has stated that “almost a year after the explosion of the pandemic crisis, the living and wage conditions of millions of workers continue to worsen. The thousands of infections and deaths, especially at workplaces, and the health crisis, unequivocally certify the failure of the containment measures taken so far both at the national, regional and local levels.”
“The pandemic crisis has highlighted the wreckage to public health caused by the policies of the governments and regional councils of the last 40 years that…have continuously cut the public off, giving priority to private individuals.” added the union.
On Friday, Front of Communist Youth (FGC) National Secretary Lorenzo Lang said, “Today’s mobilizations have a significant meaning. Thousands of students took to the square along with workers on strike. For years, we have been saying that the student movement is not enough by itself, that students, workers, and the unemployed must be united in one fight. [We need] a unique class front to respond to unpopular policies and to the attack by the employers. Building a truly unique class front is a necessity no longer to be put off .”