Thousands of ILVA steel workers demonstrate in Taranto
24-hour strike comes on eve of first court hearing on shutdown02 August, 16:53
Last Thursday a Taranto judge ordered the plant to halt ILVA's mineral park and foundry areas to staunch toxic pollution that prosecutors say has poisoned nearby areas since 1995. The judge also ordered the house arrest of eight ILVA managers and ex-managers, including the owner Emilio Riva.
Shutdown procedures began Monday.
Today's demonstration and 24-hour strike comes on the eve of the first court hearing tomorrow to re-examine the shutdown and arrest orders. The steel workers formed two processions that met in a large open piazza where national union leaders addressed them over an amplification system. Demonstrators and the union leaders were taken by surprise when a group assaulted them with eggs and stink bombs, and attempted to rip out microphone cables under the stage.
Secretary of left-wing union FIOM, Maurizio Landini, blamed the incursion on a local grassroots union group called COBAS.
"If the workers don't feel represented anymore by the unions, there's a reason for it," quipped the acerbic comedian turned politician, Beppe Grillo, on his internet blog. "Once upon a time the police defended the owners. Today (they defend) the trio of unions," Grillo added. Grillo may have been referring to Raffaele Bonnani, national secretary of CISL, Susanna Camusso, general secretary of CGIL, and Luigi Angeletti, secretary of UIL, all major national union leaders who all took part in the demonstration today.
"One does not fix problems at a steel plant by stopping it," Camusso declared over the microphone. "There is a need for investment, which must be made on the plant while it is operating. We ask the government to invest and we ask that everyone do their part," Camusso added. In another city of the Puglia region, Bari, Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini spent Thursday in a series of meetings. The minister met with the Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, other local government figures, and ILVA President Bruno Ferrante. Clini is scheduled to meet with union representatives and the industrial group Confindustria in the afternoon.
"The government tomorrow will adopt an emergency measure that will make last Thursday's memorandum of understanding effectively operative," Clini said, making reference to a government pledge last Thursday to allocate 336 million euros for ILVA-related environmental clean up and recovery. "Right now we are evaluating whether it will be a law decree or civil protection order".
Clini vowed government support to keep the ILVA steel plant in production on a Tgcom24 television report last Friday. Wednesday night, workers and their families held a torch-light vigil in solidarity for those who could lose their jobs.