Appeal interviewed Antonio Recano, an engineering shop
steward, who works
construction and maintenance of industrial plants, and works for one of the
companies operating within the Syracuse oil refinery. He is a member of the
FIOM-CGIL (metalworkers’ union), on its Syracuse provincial committee and also
the Central Committee (national committee) of the FIOM-CGIL.
you know about IREM in terms of working conditions, wages, etc.?
IREM was set up in 1979 with its Italian offices in Syracuse and Milan
and its international offices in France, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Greece,
Libya and Azerbaijan. It started its activities in the industrial hub of
Syracuse, an area with a high number of oil refineries and petrochemical
installations, which are also among the largest in Europe. After having
completed its investments in building this industrial hub, it diversified its
activities by setting up a group which operates as a “main contractor” and
expanded its activities mainly abroad. Now 90% of the activities of this main
group are abroad, while the other companies belonging to the group operate in
Italy. It is these smaller companies that operate locally that we are able to keep
in check and where we manage to get them to respect the national collective
bargaining agreement, together with other local agreements that establish
conditions and wages. These local “satellite” companies are unionised and thus
we can keep up the pressure in maintaining wage levels, and even in a recession
like the one we are in today, we are able to guarantee decent conditions for
unionised and if not, why not? What have you done to unionise it?
mentioned earlier, unionisation at IREM has always been on two levels. The
union is able to control the situation in the smaller companies that make up
the group and that operate locally, while it is unable to penetrate those
affiliates that operate abroad. Most of the workers in these affiliates
negotiate their wages on a one-to-one basis directly with the company, and as
they move around continuously they become somewhat “allergic” to trade unions.
The British workers made it clear that
their struggle was not against Italian or Portuguese workers. It was in defence
of conditions won through trade union agreements here in Britain. How did the
mass media portray their struggle and what can be done to get the real message
of the British workers in struggle to their Italian brothers?
Italians, thanks to the information portrayed by the mass media, received
a distorted picture of what was happening in Britain. Here in Italy the
reactionary forces used the struggle of these British workers, presenting it as
xenophobic in order to hide the real causes of the crisis and to cover up the
very dangerous social dislocation which is growing throughout Europe.
Basically, they attempt to hide the disastrous consequences of neo-liberal
policies in Europe and throughout the world. This is aided by EU laws which
seem to favour dumping, and a “race to the bottom” favoured by the way in which
tenders are adjudicated, all of which is pushing companies downwards both
within the national borders and within Europe as a whole. This race to the bottom in Italy is offloaded
onto the shoulders of the workers. What is required is to reissue a call for
unity of all workers, starting from below, from the rank and file, putting on
the pressure to build a European-wide labour movement, a European-wide
collective bargaining structure which would guarantee all workers the same
decent conditions. We need to find common values upon which to build that motor
force for a genuine democratic and social Europe, prioritising labour and the
dignity of labour.
Do you have anything else you would like
to add? What is your message to the British workers who organised this struggle?
British workers who, not because of any xenophobic or protectionist logic,
continue their battle in the whole country for wages and jobs, I wish to
express my full solidarity and explain that I agree with the aims that flow
from our common condition. I salute them, bringing greetings from all the
Italian workers who are presently struggling like them for jobs and wages. I
hope that there can be the rebirth of a mighty European labour movement that,
by bringing together all the voices of protest, uniting all the workplaces
across Europe, can achieve genuine social and economic democracy for all us