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[INTERNATIONALISM] Police violence against TNT/FedEx striking workers near Milan

Police violence against TNT/FedEx striking workers near Milan

In the night of June 9 the police has violently attacked a strike picket at the Peschiera Borromeo TNT/FedEx warehouse near Milan, showing once again the role of the state in direct support of corporate interests against the working class, and against immigrant workers in particular, as most workers on the site are immigrants from Arabic speaking countries.

The struggle at TNT/FedEx started on May 3rd against the layoff of about a hundred Adecco temporary workers, of whom 66 had been working in the warehouse for 5 years, and should have been hired by TNT/FedEx on the basis of an agreement signed in March with the SI Cobas union.

Following the failure of TNT/FedEx to hire the 66 workers, on May 3rd SI Cobas called a strike in all TNT warehouses and workers occupied the Peschiera Borromeo plant; on May 6 the police launched a military attack on workers, with 11 armoured vans and nearly 200 policemen and carabinieri entering the warehouse to oust the striking workers.

This intimidation has not sorted the effect it aimed at.

Workers and their union SI Cobas didn’t give up, and called several other strikes, compelling the company to come to the negotiating table, even though only to offer a golden handshake for voluntary resignations.

But workers want a job, not money, and have continued their struggle, with a strike and picket on the night between 9 and 10 June, joined by their colleagues in Bologna and Reggio Emilia, and was repeated on the following night, when the police attack occurred.

The following is a statement issued in the night of the attack

How to transform a union dispute in a night of anti-worker violence

At this moment we would only like to shout our anger and our pain for our fellow workers injured and passed out following the kicks and punches and batons by police and carabinieri, but we are and will always remain lucid to forcefully denounce how an “ordinary” labour dispute has been turned into a night of unprecedented violence and repression.

The background is the political dismissal of about eighty workers employed at the important Fedex/TNT logistic hub of Peschiera Borromeo, near Milan, Italy.

Eighty workers with their families thrown into joblessness from one day to the next despite a trade union pre-agreement providing for the continuation of their employment relationship.

The unofficial reason is that they consciously joined the strike of May 1 called by SI Cobas, in defense of their health, living and working conditions against the Covid-19 infection.

As many other workers in the logistics and health care sectors, in fact, they have never stopped working during the period of quarantine, putting their health and lives at risk while delivering wholly unnecessary goods to the buyers’ homes – these ‘heroes’, as they were called, have in fact been sacrificed to the profits being accumulated by the logistics corporations, here as disposable labour for FedEx, the U.S. corporation that doesn’t want to hear about workers’ rights and unions.

Dozens of logistic workers caught Covid-19, several SI Cobas members, included shop stewards died of it. Capital grinds our bodies and lives, making profits out of them…

After several days of strike (wasn’t it a recognized Human Right?) at the Peschiera Borromeo FedEx/TNT site, a national strike of the entire supply chain was called by SI COBAS, which organised a picket at the gates of the Peschiera Borromeo warehouses.

Soon after dinner a picket of about a hundred workers and supporters gathered at the yard in front of the gates, but around 11:00 p.m., seven armoured police and carabinieri [a military police corps] vans arrived, accompanied by several police officers and plainclothes political police agents (Digos).

The SI Cobas organisers and delegates started negotiations resulting in the request for a meeting at the Prefecture, to verify with the company the conditions for a possible agreement.

It might have seemed a positive outcome at last! But while we were waiting for the result of the talks with the Prefecture HQ, the police suddenly started to advance. In order not the offer the pretext for dangerous running charges, the whole picketing group sat on the floor.

We immediately understood that their instructions were to hurt and leave marks on our bodies, as they started with kicks and punches and baton blows dealt with unrestrained fury on heads, arms, backs of barehanded workers, who purposely have opposed no resistance but keeping each other tightly by their elbows to resist to the blows.

When the police and carabinieri managed to divide the strikers into two groups, one pushed against the gates, the other towards the yard, a gratuitous and very violent charge was launched against people approaching the fallen comrades to rescue them. There were several people fallen to the ground, who were being cowardly beaten on their heads with batons as soon as they tried to stand

The charge then continued, pushing the workers and activists a few metres further, then turning against the group of workers who could not move, being crushed between the gates and the police/carabinieri cordons.

The arrival of 5 ambulances and a car with two doctors from the first aid station – we thank all of them for their kindness and solidarity – stopped the butchery and rescued many workers who had collapsed to the floor and passed out, due to the blows received.

Fractured fingers, haematomas on heads and backs, various lacerations: the list would be too long…

And we won’t forget a worker held by his arms and legs and hurled from high onto the ground so violently that he bang his head and fell unconscious, then their clubbing with hatred whoever approached to rescue him and pull him out of
reach of new blows – one shop steward was hurled to the ground and violently hit on his head, falling senseless.

We’ve been used for years to repression and state violence but tonight we’ve been the target of a much higher and ‘scientific” level of violence, aimed at spreading fear among workers and dealing a blow and muzzling their union SI Cobas.
But they got it wrong.

This disgusting level of violence made workers even more understand that this is class struggle, and the bosses fear class struggle because it questions their lurid power and loathsome profits.

This miserable night has only increased the workers’ pride of not feeling as slaves or animals to be squeezed and for finally being protagonists of their own destiny, for having taken back their dignity, fighting back side by side, in solidarity and regardless of any difference in skin colour, religion, gender, to defend their lives, wages, families.

The assembly held at the gates has decided that the struggle goes on, with the promise to get back in front of the same gates, more than ever aware that solidarity is the strongest weapon in the hands of the workers – “an injury to one is an injury to all”.

The struggle goes on!

SI Cobas
Action Pact for a united working class front