ROME (Reuters) – Unions in the Italian region of Lombardy announced strikes on Monday to protect the health of their workers. A government decree that temporarily closed companies over the coronavirus emergency included too many gaps and exceptions.
FILE PHOTO: Italian Army soldiers patrol streets after being stationed in the Lombardy region to enforce the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) blockage in Milan, Italy, on March 20, 2020. REUTERS / Daniele Mascolo
Italy suffered the world’s deadliest respiratory pandemic outbreak, with at least 5,476 killed on Sunday, most of them in Lombardy, the wealthy northern region anchored by the financial capital of Milan.
A government decree signed on Sunday states that all but “essential” companies must close by April 3 and include a long list of exceptions that are critical to maintaining Italy’s supply chain.
Lombardy branches of the three main metalworkers unions, FIOM, FIM and UILM, indicated that the list was “over-extended and covers areas of doubtful importance” and allowed companies “excessive discretion” to request exceptions.
In a joint statement, they announced a one-day hiatus for March 25 for workers in all factories that are not directly related to the distressed health sector.
The announcement was quickly followed by Lombardy chemical workers, who said they would stay home the same day.
“The decree allows many companies to remain open, many without the appropriate guarantees and safety standards, creating conditions that have not been agreed with us and creating concern among workers,” said Paolo Pirani, national head of Uiltec- Chemical and textile workers’ union.
Bank employees threatened a nationwide strike and said they were forced to work under unsafe conditions without masks, gloves, and sufficient amounts of antiseptic gels. Several banks have already temporarily closed branches to renovate them.
Many of the most famous companies in the country have already stopped producing in Italy, including the glasses manufacturer Luxottica, the luxury car manufacturer Ferrari and the tire manufacturer Pirelli. Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler told employees on Monday that production in all European and North American factories would cease and help with mask manufacturing during the coronavirus emergency, a union representative said.
The head of the employer lobby, Confindustria, warned of the economic impact of the factory closures.
By stopping 70% of the country’s production, Italy would lose € 100 billion a month, he told Sky Italia in a television interview.
The state’s recent crackdown on virus infection, announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte late Saturday, tightened restrictions on movement by increasing police controls over Italians who are trying to leave their cities for non-essential reasons.
Two days earlier, any outdoor movement that was not carried out alone and in the immediate vicinity of people’s homes was prohibited.
Italy’s northern regions, particularly Lombardy, have borne the overwhelming brunt of the crisis, but there is concern that the virus that infected 59,138 people on Sunday could spread to the poorer south, where health systems are less well equipped.
Sebastiano Musumeci, the regional president of Sicily, protested on Monday that many non-residents would arrive by car ferry to the South Island. “The national government must intervene because we Sicilians are unwilling to be slaughtered like cattle,” he said on Facebook.
Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes, Valentina Za and Giulia Segreti; Edited by Mark Heinrich