On March 13, Friday, a large mobilization was witnessed in Piacenza, Italy, protesting the persecution of union activists and workers of the Piacenza warehouse of the logistics group Fedex-TNT. More than 3,000 people participated in the demonstration called by the Si Cobas union and the Counter Tendency group, among others, in support of the warehouse workers and union activists. Earlier, on March 10, police in the city had launched a witch hunt of the workers by starting inquiry and searches against more than 20 workers, raiding homes and union offices. They also took to revoking residence permits of workers, imposing fines and even placed two union leaders, Mohamed Arafat and Carlo Pallavicini, under house arrest. The police action was viewed as retribution for a week-long strike organized by the workers of the TNT warehouse against layoffs announced by the company.
Since the beginning of the year, workers in the logistics sector have been organizing dynamic mobilizations in defense of jobs and workers’ rights in various warehouses and units of logistic giants like Amazon, Nippon Express, Fedex TNT, and others, in Piacenza. Workers also joined the national general strike on January 29 protesting the hardships inflicted on the working class by the insensitivity of the government in handling the COVID-19 crisis. By the end of January, TNT workers under the leadership of Si Cobas had started a militant strike against the layoffs announced by the company – 6,300 layoffs in Europe, of which 650 are in Italy, including in the Piacenza unit. In some instances during the strike, the workers resisted police’s attempts at intimidation which resulted in injuries to the workers and two police men. The police are now trying to suppress the trade union movement in the logistic sector in Piacenza by propagating a narrative of ‘trade union violence and attack on police’.
Regarding the mobilization against the police attacks on March 13, Si Cobas stated that “a police operation of this size cannot be the result of a purely local dynamic, nor just the result of a strike that, we must remember, was taking place in a completely peaceful manner until a unilateral charge of the department – quick with tear gas shots at man-height against strikers wouldn’t lead to turning a union dispute into a public order problem.”
“It’s obvious that we are faced with a piece of a wider repressive attack, which sees Piacenza workers as a special target because of the important fighting initiatives carried out in these weeks, on all the great demonstrations outside the Amazon gates on March 8,” added the union.
Workers from various sectors in several cities across Italy have expressed solidarity with the TNT workers and union activists in Piacenza. Progressive groups in and outside Italy, including the Communist Youth Front (FGC) in Italy and the Liege Federation of the Communist Party of Belgium, also have expressed solidarity with the workers.
FGC national secretary Lorenzo Lang said that the Italian state is persecuting the TNT workers to send a warning to workers across Italy. “They’re afraid that this struggle will set an example, when the masters’ attack comes in hundreds of factories and warehouses with the unlocked layoffs. They want to unload the cost of the crisis on the popular classes and prevent them from lifting their heads. The war that the State and the masters unleash against the workers needs to be responded to now, compact, without giving in to intimidation,” he said.