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Occupy Sunday: Italy’s Shop Workers Campaign Against Extended Opening, Exploitation

By Paola Natalicchio

The Tuscan shopping centre I Gigli is a tetris of rectangles and cylinders of cement and windows located halfway between Florence and Prato. It is 15 years old, with more than 14 million visitors a year, 134 stores and 1,800 employees (the average age under 40).

Until last February, as in all the malls and shops in Italy, on Sunday, as a rule, people didn’t work. There were two [Sunday] openings per month and the shop workers were at ease. Then came the liberalization decree of the Monti Government and things have changed. Since then, here and elsewhere, it has been work around the clock, 360 days out of 365.

Basically, you are at home only at Christmas, Easter and New Year. For the rest of the year, shops are open for business seven days a week, including weekends. However, Sundays are not voluntary or paid as overtime and the additional workload is not taken up by new hires.

On average, those who work on Sunday earn between 10 and 30% more than the usual workday. In most cases, we’re talking just 14 Euros gross bonus, which cannot begin to compensate for the loss of such a vital, untouchable thing as a day with the family.

Since last spring, around the campaign advertisement ‘Sunday – no thanks’, a movement of shop workers and their families that is opposed to Sunday opening and is calling for the right to a weekly rest has spread and begun to organize. The Facebook page has over two thousand signatures. The image-symbol is a basket with bars forced open, from which some birds escape in flight.

And joining the campaign is the students and precarious workers’ movement TILT, which is linked to the ‘Association of Freedom is Participation’ of Prato.

A national event, #OccupySunday, qas launched this [Sunday] afternoon, right in the parking lot of the mega mall of Florence, Tuscany.

‘It’s not actually a strike,’ says Diego Blasi, spokesman ‘association and the organiser of the event. ‘Our idea is of a sort of social fortress, involving the workers but also the relatives of those who cannot participate because they are on shift. In fact, we will organise a space for children and we are thinking about a flash mob, along with their families.’

The demand is simple: to work on Sundays only on a voluntary basis and that it is at least counted as overtime in pay cheques. And at least with the possibility of being able to opt out from time to time (with employers accommodating this with ad hoc recruitment ), in order to return to a sustainable way of life, having time for the children, family and private life .

‘I respect this protest and I understand the discomfort of workers, which in recent months have become stressed by increased working rhythms,’ says Yashar Deljoye Sabeti, director of the shopping centre, who met with the organisers of the event and authorized them to use the parking lot for an open assembly this afternoon.

‘What is certain is that since we are always open on Sundays we have recorded an increase in turnover. And in times of crisis, this is not a minor detail, but a concrete way to defend jobs. The important thing is that everything happens in accordance with the national labour contracts,’ concludes the Director.

Meanwhile, during the Florentine event signatures will also be collected for the TILT movement’s petition for a guaranteed minimum income, which aims to achieve 50,000 signatures to launch a proposal for a bill providing the unemployed with a basic income of € 600 per month.

El Pubblico October 7, 2012

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Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


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