On 19 July 2022, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Piacenza investigated eight trade unionists, six from the base union Si Cobas and two others from the base union (USB), on charges of criminal association aimed at committing numerous crimes , including private violence, resistance and violence to public officials, sabotage and disruption of public service. Six trade unionists ended up under house arrest, while the other two were banned from staying in Piacenza.
Among those arrested there is also the national coordinator of Si Cobas, Aldo Milani, who just the day before had seen the revocation by the council of state of a roadmap issued by the Piacenza police headquarters on October 14, 2021 after a strike at the Amazon warehouse in Castel San Giovanni, the largest in Italy of the multinational of electronic commerce.
The strikes in the logistics warehouses in Piacenza between 2014 and 2021 ended under accusation, with the aim of denouncing the gang hiring in the recruitment of porters and warehouse workers and the exploitation of work in the fake cooperatives in subcontracting, and to obtain conditions of work better by entering into agreements with individual companies. It is the so-called second-level bargaining, widely practiced by grassroots unions that do not participate in collective bargaining with the government, employers’ organizations and confederal trade unions.
There is an obvious attempt to prevent the class union from being strengthened in the logistics warehouses
In this way, grassroots unions have managed to organize the workers of a world often described as a jungle, made up of small companies of suppliers, truck owners and cooperatives that constantly change their name and company name. More than once they have had to deal with a tough attitude from companies.
On the night between 15 and 16 September 2016, Abd Elsalam Ahmed Eldanf, an Egyptian unionist from the Usb, was overwhelmed by a truck driver who forced a picket organized in front of the GLS headquarters in Piacenza to ask for the stabilization of thirteen workers. . “The executives told me ‘I’ll shoot you, I’ll shoot you’, we had to negotiate and they forced us to go to a club for this meeting instead of the warehouse, isolating ourselves”, said a colleague of his, Elderah Fisal Elmoursim.
In the 350 pages of the ordinance of the public prosecutor of Piacenza, a different story is told. Protest actions such as pickets, warehouse occupations, strikes and even assemblies are described as “criminal acts” and the magistrates define the trade unionists under investigation as organizers of a double criminal organization, one linked to Si Cobas and the other to ‘USB, aimed at “enriching” even personal and at “power” objectives, linked to the competition between them to obtain more members and pay the union delegates with the proceeds.
Exploitation and irregularities
“This is not an investigation against the grassroots unions, but against some leaders who have managed the union as their thing even at the economic level”, the chief prosecutor of Piacenza Grazia Pradella defended in a press conference. In the order, however, legitimate trade union activities such as organized strikes are considered “extortion” “in order to obtain better conditions for workers than those provided for by the national contract”. And the “individual multinationals” and “employers interested from time to time” are defended, since they would have been “subjected to a condition of exasperation that forced them to accept the economic demands that were made of them”.
“It is clear that there is an attempt to try to prevent the conflictual class union from growing and strengthening in the logistics warehouses,” said the USB in a statement.
Si Cobas related the “repressive theorem” of the Piacenza prosecutor’s office with “the parliamentary coup put in place a few days ago by the Draghi government on a mandate from Assologistica”. This is an amendment to the aid decree – the same that caused the government crisis – presented by Forza Italia senator Nazario Pagano, which cancels the possibility for workers to retaliate against clients, that is to say multinationals, for contractual violations of contracted companies. After the approval, Assologistica thanked, in addition to Senator Pagano, the Minister of Justice Marta Cartabia “for having authoritatively favored a change of historical significance like this” and the Minister of Economic Development Giancarlo Giorgetti for supporting their proposal.
In a sector where the exploitation of labor and contributory irregularities are the rule, exempting multinationals from any responsibility on the supply chain means reducing the protection for workers even more. And prosecuting trade unionists for organizing strikes and pickets to get better working conditions in a sector that needs more investigations means making them even more powerless.