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Fighting for rights and democracy in the workplace and in society

The metalworkers strike and protest Friday 9 March is about democracy in the workplace, but also extending welfare to the weakest, protecting public services and a sustainable exit from the crisis, says Maurizio Landini, general secretary of Fiom metalworkers union, Italy.

Today is a very important day for the FIOM and the future of democracy.

The metalworkers’ union of the CGIL confederation, in the course of its history has never been limited to defending the conditions of the workers it represents, but has always had the ambition to modify, through collective bargaining and industrial action, the social model.

Today we say that the lack of democracy in the workplace is accompanied by the attack on wages, rights and material conditions of our people. It is an infernal mechanism produced from a wrong model of development that does not recognize social or environmental constraints.

There is a profound connection between the demand for democracy, the battle to return to workers the right to decide on their own terms, their contracts and on agreements that affect them and the development of new ways of working. We pose the question of the meaning, the product of working methods.

Age old questions must be answered

Old questions repeat themselves, to which we are obliged to answer: what, how, where to produce?

In essence, the Fiom has a general view of work and where it should take place.

I wonder however if the political parties have a general view that holds together democracy, work and its essential rights, and a development model that is at the same time respectful of the environment, both nature and communities.

The FIOM, with a general strike today and the demonstration in Rome that will be big and open to those who care like us about democracy, demands a special programme supported by public and private investment for a sustainable exit from the crisis….

It is a matter for everyone including politicians how we respond to all the attacks on trade union rights and freedoms unleashed by Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne. Or the attempt to run down state-owned civil production, focusing instead on military output.

How can you not see the links between the struggles for rights and democracy in the workplace with the defence of rights and democracy in society?

And how can you not share the commitment to Article. 18 [labour law providing rights from dismissal], if it is the case that you want to stand by people in precarious working circumstances…

Different model of development needed

We believe in a different model of development than liberalism which divides, destroys resources, wealth, including common wealth, work and dignity, and which increases inequality…

From those who share the criticisms of Fiat’s undemocratic attacks because, like us, they think they violate the Constitution, I expect a clear commitment to cancel Article 8 [measures passed in the summer by the then premier Silvio Berlusconi that allow local company agreements to undercut national collective agreements and facilitate divisive separate union-employer deals]  and ensure a law is passed on representation and democracy at work: a law that allows workers to express their views on agreements and contracts, to freely elect who should represent them and which restores union effectiveness .

Political parties that want union unity in these times of crisis should care about these things. It is the very lack of democracy in the workplace that makes it difficult to achieve unity.

With so many young metalworkers there will be students, temporary workers and precarious workers who will present the bill of a crisis caused by bad policies, the same policies that [the government] wants to [continue to] impose to get out of the crisis.

Tackling insecurity

Overcoming insecurity is the main route to rebuilding social cohesion and security.

With us today will be many pensioners and many, many who see retirement as a mirage…while their children and grandchildren see entry into the world of work as an ever more distant prospect.

Priority must go to permanent contracts. The reform of social safety nets must start with extending them to all who are laid off.

In addition to social safety nets, we must launch a citizen’s wage…in part to guarantee young people rights to study.

Finally, it is helpful to remember, today FIOM called the strike of metalworkers and demonstrations by all who care about democracy in order to regain a truly national labour contract today denied by companies through the practice of separate agreements, protected by unjust laws from which a democratic country should be liberated.

 Article in Italian

Interview with Landini: Libero TV

See linked Labour Start campaign

Photogallery of protest Friday 9 March 2012 and here too

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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