Rome, November 7 – Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Friday reiterated a warning against letting labour-reform issues become a “terrain of conflict”. “I’ve made this appeal in the last few days and I’ll make it again,” he said at the opening of a Piaggio Aerospace plant at Villanova d’Albenga near the French border.
Tension is high between Renzi’s executive and Italy’s biggest trade union confederation, the CGIL – especially its metalworkers’ arm FIOM – over the government’s Jobs Act labour reform.
The reform features changes for new hires to Article 18 of the 1970 Workers Statute protecting staff from unfair dismissal – a move the CGIL sees as a attacking a basic right, but which the government says will encourage firms to hire people.
The conflict over this issue took on a grim reality when five striking steelworkers were hospitalized with head injuries after clashes with police last month at a demonstration in Rome by workers from the AST steel plant in Terni protesting against jobs cuts. As well, angry protesters fearing for their jobs at an Alcatel-Lucent plant pelted Renzi’s staff car with eggs Thursday near the northern city of Monza.
Renzi’s pithy rejoinder that “if they throw eggs, I’ll make crepes” did nothing to calm the controversy.
“It’s OK to have different ideas, it’s OK to debate, but there’ll be trouble if the world of labour is seen as a battleground,” Renzi said. The leader of the CGIL, which has traditional ties with the premier’s center-left Democratic Party, promptly replied that it is up to the premier to resolve the clash with unions over his controversial labour reforms because he “triggered” the row in the first place.
“We must think of a world of labour that is united and based on solidarity, and for this to happen the first condition is to remove the divisions and the will to cause further divisions,” said Susanna Camusso.
The conflict with the government, she said, springs from fact that his government is prolonging policies which labor says have failed to lift Italy out of seven years of economic crisis.
“We are still convinced this government can change its tune – it must change its tune,” Camusso said on the sidelines of a conference in the northern city of Padua. She went on to point out that if the country has lost billions in foreign investments, it is due to corruption and not to Article 18.
“In the past few years our country lost 16 billion euros due to corruption not Article 18,” Camusso said.
“Clearly we need a new commitment to fighting corruption”. Her remarks came after Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said Friday that crime and endemic corruption in Italy is hampering investment, particularly from abroad, and has lost Italy 16 billion euros of potential foreign investment between 2006 and 2012.