Italy: A protest to claim a fair future for railway workers and to defend the right to strike

13 Jul 2023

Workers at Trenitalia and Italo have taken a courageous step by going on strike, demanding fair working conditions. The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) stands firmly in solidarity with these workers and extends our support to FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL, and UIL Trasporti, the unions leading the charge.

The primary objective of the strike is to address critical issues that impact the workers’ day-to-day lives. At the core of their demands is the urgent need for renewing the collective bargaining agreement at Italo and, for Trenitalia, an adequate recruitment plan that addresses staffing shortages and ensures the smooth functioning of operations. Additionally, they seek balanced crew shifts that prioritize employee well-being and promote a healthy work-life balance.

Furthermore, the workers emphasize the importance of investing in maintenance, improving passenger assistance, and making essential technological investments. These investments are needed not only to enhance operational efficiency but also to contribute to a more sustainable and passenger-friendly transport system.

Strikes are always the last resort for trade unions and their members. Despite the unions’ legitimate concerns and their long-standing efforts to engage in dialogue with the management, the strike faced an unexpected hurdle.

The notice for today’s strike has been served on 21 June, in respect of the quite strict Italian legislation on the right to strike, which also establishes minimum services that have to be guaranteed in case of industrial action.

That is why the last-minute intervention of the Italian Transport Minister, Matteo Salvini, who ordered a reduction in the strike length, was met with disappointment and frustration.

Such interference undermines the workers’ right to strike and disregards the value of social dialogue and negotiation, attacks a fundament of democracy.

The role of the Minister, particularly in times of labour disputes, should be to facilitate dialogue and bridge the gap between workers and employers. Interfering with the right to strike is not only unacceptable and disrespectful to the workers and their dignity but also detrimental to a possible solution to the conflict. By interfering in the process, the Minister is making the conflict even harsher.

In the face of these challenges, the ETF stands united with our Italian affiliates and workers’ unions. We pledge our unwavering support to the workers of Trenitalia and Italo as they strive for fair working conditions and the protection of their rights. The ETF will continue to advocate for social dialogue, collective bargaining, and defending workers’ rights across Europe.

Furthermore, the transition to a carbon-neutral economy is a global project that has the railway industry at its core. It is a global challenge to invest in a just transition to a greener economy, but it will only thrive if workers’ voices are heard, and their working conditions are improved. A just transition, with fair transport, is the key to building a future, respecting the environment and workers’ rights, and ensuring a safe planet for future generations.