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Italian left-wing trade unions proclaim a general strike, but it is only a fiasco. The left is leaderless



In the summer, the CGIL, a left-wing trade union closely associated with the Democratic Party, now in opposition, hinted at calling a general strike against the Italian government led by Meloni and its financial maneuver. The strike was directed at a budget law that was yet to be drafted – a sort of a priori strike, one might say. However, the union leader, Maurizio Landini, seemed impervious to reasoning; Meloni’s government was right-wing, hence perceived as an adversary to workers, regardless of its actions.

Landini was also playing another political game: attempting to assume the leadership of the Italian left, especially at a time when the PD secretary, Elli Schlein, faced challenges following some electoral setbacks. The strike was, therefore, a strategic move to establish dominance on the left. Unfortunately for Landini, things did not unfold as he had anticipated.

The strike, as proclaimed by CGIL and Uil in the civil service and education sectors, turned out to be a fiasco. According to data provided by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, based on figures entered by administrations into the Gepas procedure, 65,789 employees in various sectors abstained from work, while a staggering 1,384,597 people showed up for work. The participation rate amounted to a mere 5.39%. The following table illustrates the participation sector by sector.

Deductions from salaries, according to Gepas figures, amounted to just over 4.7 million euros. On the other hand, sectoral unions claimed ‘very high adherence in transport, with peaks of 100% in ports and 95% in logistics.’

Beyond the numerical outcome, it was a day marked by tension between the government and workers’ representatives. Maurizio Landini, flanked by his UIL colleague Pier Paolo Bombardieri, opened the unions’ demonstration against the government’s maneuver, characterized by workers’ representatives shouting ‘Enough is enough!,’ a phrase prominently displayed on banners in the square.

Landini underscored his duty to voice the concerns of Italians ‘who pay taxes and demand a change in the development model and reforms promised by this government during the election campaign but not delivered.’ There is palpable distrust and anger over unprecedented inequality.

However, the Democratic Party’s extensive tenure in government during the last 12 years, where workers’ rights and wages saw significant contractions, poses a credibility challenge for the left-wing trade union aligned with the party. This is the same union that signed contracts specifying wages as low as EUR 5 per hour for workers.

Commenting from Zagreb, where European leaders’ dinner was held, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni addressed the reasons behind the CGIL and UIL’s call for an 8-hour general strike. She noted, ‘An independent authority has indicated that there were no requirements for a general strike. I have great respect for workers’ rights; it is not something I decided. On the merits, I can say little because the general strike was launched in the summer when I hadn’t even contemplated the maneuver. Thus, I cannot attribute the abstention from work to objective errors by the government.’

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructure and leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, who preemptively limited inconveniences by coordinating with public transport workers, expressed pride in his decision, which allowed the country to have a normal day.

In two days, this general strike will likely fade from memory, even for those who participated. Italy’s underlying problems persist, and these unions are unlikely to be the solution.

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