One and half million public and private sector workers in Italy went on strike on Friday 17 November.
300,000 went out onto the streets against the Finanziaria (budget) and the neo-liberal policies of the centre-left government, mobilised by the trade unions of the base ( Cub-RdB, Cobas, Sult, Cnl, Unicobas, Sincobas, Usi and others). Joining them were 25,000 university staff, mobilised by the three main trade union federations Cgil, Cisl and Uil, and 50,000 students mainly mobilised by Udu, the university students union, and Uds which organises students in the middle schools. They marched for education rights and against cuts in education and research. The most important demonstrations were the ones in Palermo, 250,000 students, Rome and Florence, 150,000 and Milan, 10,000.
10% of workers went on strike, and this despite the fact that the RSU union leafleted several factories to denounce it as an illegal strike. In the public transport sector the buses went on strike for 2 1/2 hours, the trains for four hours and the planes for eight hours.
Lotta per il Socialismo (CWI Italy) intervened in Bologna where the demonstration was smaller than in the rest of the country with just 1,500 people. Unfortunately, the students union did not involve wide layers of students and didn’t take the movement out to high school students. Nevertheless, there was the notable presence of firefighters and trade unionists of the base protesting against the budget, for all workers to be taken on full-time, for the right to work and study and for citizen and trade union rights.
We sold more than 15 bulletins and raised €12 in fighting fund and three people were interested in finding out more about the CWI.
Unite the struggles
The budget has been passed in the lower house and the government continues to ignore our demands and our opposition. The budget will mean spending cuts of €4.5 bn, resulting in the loss of 50,000 jobs in education, and only 8,000 of 350,000 casual workers in the public sector will be taken on with full employment rights. The number of pupils per class will also rise. But this budget still finds the means to increase military spending (which for the first time is equal to social spending) and gives away millions to private schools and to business.
The Cgil trade union federation has called a national demonstration for the 17th December against education cuts. While this is a good initiative, they are not looking to unite the movement, calling out different sections of workers in education on strike on different days. We need maximum unity to overcome the bureaucratic wars between the different trade unions. Not only workers in education should be on the demonstration on the 17th but also students and all workers because this budget attacks every one of us from children to pensioners.
The negotiations on increasing the pension age begin in January and the robbing of the TFR (pension fund) will begin from the first of January 2006. In practice, unless workers actively say what they want to happen to the money in the TFR, it will be automatically invested in private funds resulting in speculation and offering the bosses astronomical benefits while the workers risk never receiving their money which they have worked for years for.
The movement must not finish here. It must be broadened to involve school students, casual and permanent workers and pensioners because we are all victims of neo-liberal policies and the government is only the bosses’ friend. Only a massive and ongoing fight can be successful. All the struggles should be linked together in a general strike uniting workers, pensioners, immigrants and students.