A Great Success: the self-organized railworkers
FdCA Labour Commission statement on the success of the 24-hour rail strike called by the workers in self-organized assembly
A GREAT SUCCESS
The 24-hour rail strike called by some workers' representatives responsible for safety measures together with the SULT and CUB Trasporti grassroots unions on the mandate of a self-organized assembly of rail workers in Bologna on 12 January has been a great success. It is the first time in over a decade that Italian rail workers have called for and observed a strike on their own initiative, without any interference on the part of the traditional unions. They were able to do this by using one of the few loopholes in current anti-strike legislation.
The result was more than satisfying, with over 80% of rail workers striking. The number of strikers was well over the figures one would expect for a strike called by the two small unions who called the strike together with representatives of workers responsible for rail safety.
Both the self-managed workers' assembly in Bologna and the strike itself caught the main railway unions (FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL, UILT, SMA, UGL and ORSA) by surprise and their attempt (especially on the part of FILT-CGIL) to de-legitimize this action failed miserably.
Clearly, it is far too early to make any predictions about the birth of a self-managed workers' movement or a renewal in self-managed struggles in the railways sector, but certainly the basis does exist for this. This sector is in a worse state today than it has ever been in. The new national labour contract which has been in force for over 18 months, has brought about unbearable living and working conditions, in particular with regard to train personnel and drivers. The company continues to be dismantled with entire areas being externalized, causing more and more redundancies of people whose jobs are more frequently "covered" by staff on part-time, temporary or apprentice contracts and at times even by people brought in from the temporary agencies. In the meantime, the liberalization drive (modelled on the British system) proceeds on its unstoppable path, leaving a trail of destruction, injuries and deaths. The traditional leftist parties are not free of fault regarding the situation, given that the infamous directives providing for the liberalization of the railways date from the Prodi and D'Alema governments. Neither are the principal trade unions free of blame and they too continue to accept the situation in one way or another.
It is pointless asking, as the politicians on the traditional left and the principal unions do, for greater investments in safety when the railways are being ripped apart by liberalization/privatization.
It is pointless because it is exactly the areas of maintenance and safety (apart from job levels and the cost of labour) that the FS Group is attacking through its private-sector behaviour. The problem is one of structure and it is necessary to put a halt immediately to the criminal liberalization of the railways. Only a national, state-owned rail system which is not trying to create profit can guarantee efficient, comfortable and safe transport to citizens and allow rail workers to improve their wages and working conditions through labour struggle. Anything other than this is simply the law of the jungle, with hundreds of private transport-sector companies bent on making profit even if it means having to forego safety measures and employ temporary, underpaid workers. It is a disquieting scenario, but one which yesterday's strike has firmly cast in doubt.
We Anarchist Communist railway workers, who participated in the Bologna Assembly and worked for and joined the self-managed strike, intend to go on working towards the building of a truly self-managed movement of railway workers whose principal objective will be the struggle against liberalization. In line with the platform of demands from the Bologna Assembly, we will also be fighting for the immediate return to their jobs of our colleagues who were fired for telling the truth (now plain for everyone to see) about the state of the railways in Italy on the "Report" television programme and also for the immediate withdrawal of the suspensions (running into hundreds of days) of those conductors and drivers who were "guilty" of demanding that safety measures be respected and of having contact with the media. Finally, we will continue our battle against a despicable national labour contract for our sector which has set conditions back over 50 years and for the construction from the grassroots level of an alternative contractual platform for rail workers.
Genoa, 18th January 2005
Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici
"Viktor Balach" Rail Workers Cell