Thousands of construction workers protested Saturday in Rome in a bid to ‘build a future’ for themselves. They arrived from around the country in 150 buses, a thousand trains and dozens of ferries from the Italian islands.
The rally in the Italian capital today comes as the sector is facing its worse crisis since the Second World War.
More than a million workers are employed by 700,000 mostly small firms in construction but 60,000 companies have closed and 300,000 jobs have been lost. The cause: public spending cuts imposed by EU deficit constraints that have hit big public workers projects and a collapse in private investment that has curtailed residential building programmes.
Investment will have fallen by 24% in 2008-2012 period, it is estimated, with a 5,4% fall last year and a 3,8% fall in 2012.
After jobs, the chief concern is job security and safety at work as deregulation has created a veritable wild west where employers pay scandalously low wages, deny basic employment rights and safety standards are horrendous.
Late and non-payment of wages as reached crisis levels.
And with around a fifth of all 533 workplace deaths last year occurring in construction, it remains a potentially lethal trade. Already 12 people have died this year and official figures underestimate workplace deaths by 30%, according to the CGIL trade union.
Unions are concerned the problem will only grow following the move by the government of Mario Monti to curtail workplace inspections as part of its a decree on February 9 to ‘simplify’ things for business.
As if things were bad enough, organised crime is rampant in the sector.
Migrants, representing a quarter of the sector’s workforce and whom figures show suffer more workplace accidents and lower pay than Italian construction workers, are feeling the crisis hardest.
The unions are demanding investment, particularly in the South, a campaign against illegality, Mafia-infiltration and gangmasters, the enforcement of existing labour legislation and a reversal of recent changes to the pension system that are hitting casualised workforces hard.
Photos of the rally:
Walter Schiavella, General Secretary of the building workers’ section of the CGIL trade union confederation explains why construction workers took to the streets Saturday 3 March 2012 (Italian).