The bosses are never satisfied.
First they steal from the workers, now it’s the turn of SI Cobas!
Below is the statement of Modena SI Cobas on the eve of the ‘maxi-trial’ of up to 67 workers, trade unionists and supporters of the struggle and strikes against Italpizza.
Along with the usual accusations of assault and unauthorised demonstration, now there is a 500,000 euro claim for “damages” from the bosses of Italpizza.
However, in reality this is nothing new. It is a continuation of the oppressive tactics used against trade unions that try to organise against bosses. For example, logistic multinational Xpo’s €2 million legal claim against SI Cobas in 2018 (rejected by the employment court of Milan), and the current case brought by Unes and its lawyer Pietro Ichino.
These developments show that the state repression of SI Cobas, which led to the house arrest of 4 union organisers this summer (later overturned), is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a general offensive by employers aimed at attacking the financial stability of SI Cobas, in order to restrict its activities.
This coordinated attack has revealed the complicity of the Modena and Piacenza public prosecutors in the bosses’ strategy. Since the Alcar Uno investigation in 2017, the prosecutors have made several attempts to criminalise strike-funds and support campaigns.
There needs to be a response to this repression, not only in the courtroom but above all in the workplaces and on the streets. In view of this, our struggles around the cost of living, war and exploitation become even more important, as does the general strike of grassroots unions on December 2nd.
SI Cobas National
ITALPIZZA DEMANDS 500,000 EUROS FROM THE UNION!
On Monday 3rd October at 9.30am, in the Court of Modena, the preliminary hearing of the “maxi trial” will continue. On trial are up to 67 workers, trade unionists and activists who have struggled since 2018/19 in support of logistics workers under contract to Italpizza.
The charges they face range from ‘violence on the picket line’ to ‘obstruction and assault’ of the police who themselves repeatedly used violence to remove the pickets from the factory gates.
Most will remember how the “local establishment” took the side of the economic interests of Italpizza from the start, immediately transforming the workers’ struggles into an issue of public order that legitimised a brutal repression. Workers were given “punishment details” of shovelling snow off the roof, and the police used tear gas and batons against the picketers on the gate.
All because workers simply asked for their rights to be respected, in a sector – the Modenese food industry – where millions a year in excess profits are made off the backs of the workers. The usual mechanisms of exploitation are used, such as chains of contracts and sub-contracts awarded to dodgy agencies (e.g. Powerlog, who went fraudulently bankrupt), that hurt not only workers but also taxpayers as a result of tax evasion (labelled “logical” by the inspectorate in the case of Italpizza!)
Contractors that have replaced one another and caused workers to lose severance pay, as a resulf of bankruptcy. Contractors that wrongly classify food workers as cleaners, so they can be paid in a lower salary band. Contractors that allocate shifts via last-minute whatsapp messages, and break employment law on minimum rest periods, and on and on.
It is only thanks to the courageous battle by the workers that these continuous failings were exposed. Italpizza were forced to address these problems, but did this by amending agreements with the same mainstream unions whose original complacency permitted the failings to happen, and signed the agreements that made conditions worse for the workers.
This is the context in which Italpizza, hungry for profits but now also for revenge, has demanded an “initial payment” of 500,000 euros as compensation for the success of the worker’s struggle!
On October 3rd the Modena court will discuss whether SI Cobas can be held liable for these damages. This dangerous development, unfortunately not an isolated case, exposes the strategy of weakening the finances of a trade union, in order to stop it fighting for the interests of workers.
At the same time, in the factory Italpizza continues its campaign of disinformation on the company notice boards, aimed at discrediting the union. Using “hard sell” language it talks of the arrest of Aldo Milani without mentioning his subsequent acquittal, or quoting biased media articles. They falsely claim that Italpizza was never found guilty of irregularities, despite the clear evidence reported by the Employment Inspectorate, or the cases still pending in the employment court.
Everything is signed off by the notorious Mr Montanini, a former local councillor who, rejected by his electorate, found well-paid employment for his long-standing ally, Italpizza.
Obviously, democracy is a one-way street for Italpizza, and only the corporate version of events is ever permitted on the notice boards.
SI Cobas Modena