Italy: Victory at INNSE, Milan!

Occupation ends with major job guarantees

Victory after long struggle

After more that 15 months of struggle, an agreement was reached that guarantees the employment of all the last 49 workers who occupied the Innse factory on the outskirts of Milan

The four workers and the trade union representative who courageously spent eight days and seven nights on a crane in defence of the factory were finally able to come down. By the first of October there is scheduled to be a new business plan. There will also be clarification of the benefits to be paid to the workers up until the beginning of production under the new owner – the industrial group Camozzi from Brescia.

A long struggle

When the owner of INNSE decided to close the factory in May 2008 the workers not only occupied the factory but also continued production until September when the police threw them out. The blockade of the factory continued at the gate to prevent the removal of the machinery. The owner saw more profit in selling off single machines than in continuing production while the owner of the land – a property group listed on the stock market – planned the development of a profitable residential area.

Banner reads “hands off INNSE!”

Thanks to the continued guard of the workers, taking turns and with lots of solidarity from the locals and in the workers’ movement, the occupation continued. Even a police attack in February 2009 was unsuccessful, although protesters were hurt by police.

Until August there were ongoing negotiations with potential new owners of the plant to continue production. The Lombardy regional authorities issued a statement that no attempt to remove machines would take place in the holiday period of August. Nevertheless, a large force of police and carabinieri entered INNSE on the morning of Sunday, the 2nd of August, to enable the owner to dismantle and take away machines, some of which had already been sold.

As tensions rose, 500 policemen and carabinieri surrounded the factory. The heads of the CGIL trade union federation and FIOM, the metal-workers’ section, sent a letter of appeal to the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, asking him to intervene in favour of the protestors! Four workers (of whom some have worked at the factory for 30 years) and one FIOM representative managed to get onsite and onto a crane more than 15 metres high. They refused to come down until an agreement securing all jobs was reached. This got a lot of media attention, and on Tuesday night, during the negotiations, more that 200 people gathered at the factory gates.

Even though the date for the start of production under the new owner is not yet fixed, a job guarantee – of 16 years! – is a great victory for the INNSE workers and their supporters.

Workers confront police

Workers confront police

A symbol of resistance

The struggle at INNSE is not only a valuable lesson about the role of the state for everyone that followed the dispute. The outcome also shows that it is possible to prevent the destruction of jobs and will serve as an example to others. This is especially important in Italy where unemployment benefits are extremely limited; losing your job can mean homelessness and absolute poverty.

A massive destruction of jobs has been delayed by the payment of state money but it is beginning now. In Italy the majority of workplaces are very small and often in family ownership. The demand of nationalising the banks to provide cheap credit can be posed as a way to defend jobs, with the proviso that agreed rates of pay and conditions are met.

If the new management of Innse fails to carry out its promises, the factory should be taken into public ownership, with the workers planning production plans.

Despite the present ebb in generalised class struggle in Italy and the crisis on the left (including the steady decline of Rifondazione Comunista), there are still some outstanding examples of workers threatened with factory closures fighting back. The workers of Ercole Marelli in Sesto San Giovanni near Milan, for example did not leave the plant for the annual summer closure but occupied the factory. Other factory occupation are ongoing at Manuli, in Ascoli Piceno, at CIM near Rome, at Lares in the province of Milan and at Bulleri Brevetti in Cascina near Pisa. The workers there – also blockading the gates to prevent the removal of machines, have called themselves, “the INNSE of Tuscany”!

Support conveyed in Italian

Many messages of support from around the world were sent to the Innse workers including from the construction workers’ Strike Committee at Lindsey in England, miners in Poland, car-workers’ representatives in Germany and Wales (including the reinstated workers’ leader at Linamar, Rob Williams) and the CWI itself (see below). Many were put into Italian by us and forwarded again to FIOM, Milan. Very many thanks on behalf of the Innse workers and the CWI in Italy.

Message from Committee for a Workers’ International

Dear brothers, sisters, comrades,

We, as the Committee for a Workers’ International with members in 40 countries, fully support your valiant struggle to keep the historic home of Lambretta open and to refuse to pay with your livelihoods for the problems that the bosses have created. We admire the great courage of the five who have climbed the crane (gru).

We condemn the sale, over your heads, of the occupied factory to a speculator for a knock-down price!

We condemn the mobilisation of the army of police to clear the factory on Sunday 2 August – at the beginning of the holiday period!

The local and national governments should withdraw the police cordon immediately and allow the workers to resume their peaceful occupation, until a solution is found. They should expropriate the new owner and discuss with workers and local people how to develop useful production on the premises.

Even if the famous scooters are no longer viable, the workers and the machinery should be turned to produce things that people urgently need. We know that capitalists are not interested in this and want to destroy jobs and machinery when there is no profit in production. We are sure that you know this only too well.

Many workers internationally, as the economic crisis deepens, are facing a similar grave situation to yours, and are beginning to take things into their own hands. A number of occupations of work-places have developed, even where there are no trade unions or very weak ones.

The CWI has had members involved in recent occupations at Visteon (N.Ireland and England), Thomas Cook (Ireland) and Vestas on the Isle of Wight. We have followed with great interest the occupations and struggles in France and as far away as South Korea (also in the car industry – Ssangyong). CWI members played a key role in the victory at Lindsey over the full rate of pay for all workers, including the Italian workers. We were also involved in mobilising for the victory at Linamar (Wales) to stop the sacking of a respected class fighter, Rob Williams, (who has already sent you a message of support).

We feel that what is needed nationally and internationally is a broadening of the struggle for nationalisation to encompass all major industries (and banks) and for planning on the basis of democratic workers’ control and management. This means preparing generalised strike action, so that workers like you are not left isolated. It also means looking for a political solution along the lines of building a genuine socialist/communist alternative to the parties who simply find different ways to implement the wishes of the bosses.

We have carried a report of your struggle on our web-site:-

Please tell us if there is any other way we can assist in your struggle.

Saluti rossi!

Clare Doyle

For the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers’ International

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August 2009