Labour Commission

Cremona, 8 November 2008

at the CSA Kavarna, Via Maffi, Il Cascinetto

with the participation of workers and union activists from the regions of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Marches and e-mail contributions from Liguria, Marches and Tuscany.

We're not paying for your crisis!

Widen the conflict, link up the struggles, on to the General Strike!
 

 

The crisis in world finance is creating new negative records every day, while the governments repeatedly insist that we must have trust in them, that it's not over yet, that it will all work out for the best in the end. In the meantime, States are financing banks to save them from collapse and financing businesses without any guarantees on jobs and wages.

This financial crisis has been coming for a long time. It came as a result of a market without any rules, completely in the hands of the speculators, and as a result of the absence of controls in the banking sector, the consequence of neo-liberalism on a world-wide scale. The policies of low wages and the defeat of the workers' movement have reduced the goods and services market's capacity to expand and the financial crisis has become a crisis for the proletariat who has to pay for this economic situation by being reduced to poverty. The middle class continues to shrink, getting poorer and poorer, while the rich continue to get richer. In this disastrous panorama, of all the so-called developed countries, Italy is the one where inequality is felt at its worst and the fall into poverty is being felt the strongest. The country is in a full-scale crisis, both financial and real, but the Italian government continues to repeat that our economy is strong and healthy. However, there is no denying we have entered a violent phase of recession and many companies are closing. The Budget (passed only thanks to it being tied to a vote of confidence) is full of cuts for healthcare, schools, universities and government departments, it introduces new measures for increasing flexibility in the jobs market, and it imposes a particularly low rated of planned inflation.

Over the past 15 years, there has been a constant shift of wealth from wages to returns and profits, with the trend of net wages running lower than inflation without re-distributing the wealth produced (GDP) and with a growing relative impoverishment of workers, which translates into an absolute impoverishment of the whole of society.

Thus, inequality of income has grown and there has been a worsening in working conditions, particularly for the least well protected in the labour market: women, who continue to be denied parity of access to work, wages and full-time employment; the young, the over-50s, migrants, large parts of Southern Italy but also some areas in the country's richest regions are feeling the crunch. Casualisation and wage poverty spell trouble for the historical conquests of Italy's labour movement. Now more than ever, it is important to bring up the question of democracy and rights, both in the workplace and elsewhere. Casualisation exemplifies the neo-liberal social model in the age of globalisation. It is the key to the social and existential unease of the young, of the old and of women.

The widespread casualisation of the world of labour goes hand in hand with the equally widespread social casualisation as foreseen in pro-Confindustria Minister Sacconi's Green Paper. It aims to introduce a system of welfare closely linked to the principle of subsidiarity and to raise the pension age, with the collaboration of the unions who are to be involved (by means of increasing use of bilateral structures) in individualising work contracts, in encouraging employees to become shareholders in their companies, in preventing and punishing conflict, limiting the right to strike in a climate of repression and company fascism that is already under way. This path converges fully with the review of bargaining imposed by the employers' federation Confindustria, and has already been accepted by the CISL and the UIL, together with the UGL [1].

Thus, the financial crisis is being taken advantage of in order to drive ahead with policies to deregulate workers' rights and protection, to increase the already negative effects of public service privatisations, and to push the working class into a state of economic and occupational subjection. The strikes and the composite movement of teachers, students and parent workers that has been growing since 15th September, the spontaneous mobilizations of factory workers and Alitalia employees, all clearly indicate that the direction we should be taking is one whereby we can free ourselves from the deadly embrace of union submission to the government and Confindustria, where we reject "solutions" such as de-taxing overtime and individual productivity premiums, where we can stop company closures from being used as a bargaining chip in order to casualise every worker in Italy or to withhold work visas for our new citizens.

We need to set out on the opposite path, a path that has already been indicated by the strikes of the grassroots unions and the school and university movement in October. It seems that the CGIL may also choose this path, by necessity. Within the federation there are strong signs of a will to break with the previously-held line, that may force the union bureaucracy to come to terms with the crisis, despite its willingness to see partnership as a solution. The involvement in the schools mobilizations, the support for the anti-mobility factory demonstrations, the refusal to sign the national deal for commercial-sector workers, their reluctance to subscribe to the norms on bargaining imposed by Confindustria, all these are signs of a re-discovered autonomy (it's never too late!), making the 12th December strike by the metalworkers of the FIOM an appointment to dedicate all our energies on in order to win back some trust in a more conflictual, participatory form of syndicalism.

The 12th December, a date which is already emblematic being the anniversary of the Piazza Fontana massacre 39 years ago, must become a day of struggle, mobilization and strikes involving every category, every sector, every trade union that opposes the costs of the crisis and the government's measures, every sort of alternative, grassroots association, self-managed social centre, political organizations on the communist left and the anarchist movement, all coming together in a demonstration of solidarity between workers, be they in permanent employment or casual, Italian or new citizens, a demonstration of class unity and direct democracy. A trade union, social, political and class-struggle General Strike that can show enough strength to demand successfully:

The FdCA supports the FIOM's 12th December strike and invites other organizations from the same category, the CGIL confederation and its trades councils, the grassroots syndicalist confederations and single-category unions to call for a general strike on the same day and start out on a new course of conflict and popular participation for greater social equality and greater freedom.

FdCA Labour Commission
Cremona, 8 November 2008

 

Note:

1. General Labour Union, a federation closely linked to the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale party.
2. The "Gelmini" education reform.
3. The Cassa Integrazione Guadagni (CIG) is a fund where the State covers part of a worker's wages while the worker is temporarily laid off.