Striking public transport workers reach agreement

A five-day wildcat strike by workers protesting at the possible privatisation of an Italian public transport company has ended in agreement. The industrial action, which disrupted Genoa’s Amt transport system for almost a week, formally ended on 23 November 2013. The majority of Amt workers, the transport unions, the company and the local authorities have agreed that Amt will continue to be publicly-owned, although this may lead to reorganisation and restructuring.

Background

In September 2012, an agreement (in Italian) was signed between the managers of the public transport company in the Italian city of Genoa, Amt, and unions. It sets out a recovery plan for the company which was threatened with closure because of significant financial losses.

The unions that signed the agreement were the Italian Federation of Transport Workers (Filt–Cgil), the Italian Transport Federation (Fit–Cisl), the Union of Italian Transport Workers (Uiltrasporti), the Independent Trade Union Federation of Transport Workers (Faisa–Cisal), and the General Union of Transport Workers (Ugltrasporti).

The deal led to the input of up to €5 billion to balance losses at Amt. The agreement also included details of how the Wages Guarantee Fund would be used during reorganisation and changes in working time, holidays, union leave, and subcontracting.

In April 2013, Amt approved the 2013–2014 industrial plan (3.28 MB PDF) which mapped out the necessary measures to save the company from shutdown and a programme to improve industrial activities in the medium term. It included initiatives to achieve economic and financial sustainability in the short-term and measures for future strategic development. However, it was immediately clear that there was insufficient money to implement the plan and that more funds had to be raised. The unions claimed this would put Amt at risk of being privatised.

On 19 November 2013, Amt workers staged a wildcat strike and regular services were disrupted. The strike lasted five days even though workers were ordered back to work by daily injunctions issued by the Genoese authorities.

Terms of the agreement

On 23 November 2013, a clear majority of the Amt workers’ assembly approved a draft agreement signed by Amt, union representatives, and the local and regional authorities that promised Amt would remain a publicly-owned company.

The deal also commits the regional authorities to subsidising the purchase of a fleet of new buses. There will be 15 in the short term, bought with money already allocated, and 200 more between 2014 and 2017, bought with European and national funds.

Regional authorities also agreed to accelerate the creation of a single agency to oversee local public transportation by March 2014, originally approved in October 2013. The body will supervise public transport in Liguria and simplify contracting processes.

The municipal authorities, meanwhile, made a commitment to invest €4.3 billion to partly cover Amt’s losses which amounted to €8.3 billion in 2013. The remaining €4 billion will be recouped through company reorganisation, external and internal, but without changing salaries, working time or breaks. The company may be able to save €2 billion by subcontracting some of its activities, but how many and which transport lines can be subcontracted will have to be agreed through company-level bargaining. A further €2 billion could be saved by internal reorganisation.

The agreement makes it clear that all the agreed measures must be implemented by all the signatories otherwise its validity as a whole cannot be guaranteed.

Union reaction

In a joint statement, the Secretary General of Cgil, Susanna Camusso, and the Secretary General of Cgil–Genoa, Ivano Bosco, declared:

…the agreement is a positive achievement, as it shows that workers, after a five day strike, can distinguish between demagogues and those who work to solve their problems. It also shows that bargaining is the only way to solve productive and employment matters.

The two union leaders also said that many politicians should consider the importance of the unions as a source of democracy. This exists, they said, only as long as the value and meaning of work is respected. They also stressed the importance of implementing the agreement, claiming that keeping Amt public means ‘more transparency, synergy in managing companies, greater savings, spending reviews and guarantees for workers and the civil population’.

Cisl Secretary General Raffaele Bonanni said he was pleased with the agreement between the unions, the municipality and the region. He said it could become a model for other public transport systems, many of which were in financial trouble.

A more negative reaction came from Massimo Proglio, Regional Secretary of Fit–Cisl in Liguria.

He was unhappy with the behaviour of local politicians and their lack of decision-making skills. He stressed that Amt workers had made sacrifices to help Amt achieve economic balance in 2013 by taking pay cuts.

Lisa Rustico, Università degli Studi di Milano

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