Marco Biagi, government labour law consultant, murdered

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On 19 March 2002, Marco Biagi, an Italian labour law and industrial relations expert and government consultant, was murdered by terrorists. He was one of the group responsible for drafting the government's controversial White Paper on labour market reform. His murder brought condemnation and protests from all parties in Italian industrial relations.

On the evening of 19 March 2002, Marco Biagi was murdered in Bologna. Professor Biagi was an expert in Italian and EU labour law and industrial relations, a professor at the University of Modena and a consultant to the Ministry of Welfare. He was one of a group of experts that drafted the centre-right government's White Paper on labour market reform, published in October 2001 (IT0110104F), and was a leading supporter of such reform. Responsibility for the murder was claimed on the following day by the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse) terrorist group. The gun used seems to have been the same used in May 1999 to kill another academic and government consultant, Massimo D'Antona (IT9905112N).

Until a few months ago, Professor Biagi had been under security escort because he had been threatened for his part in drafting the controversial February 2000 Milan employment pact (IT0003264N). The murder of Professor Biagi took place just a week after the six-monthly report of the secret services was presented to the government. The report stated that possible targets of future terrorist attacks would include 'representatives of the political, trade union and business worlds involved in economic reforms, in particular technical experts and consultants'.

Professor Biagi had worked with the Ministers of Labour in the previous Prodi and D'Alema governments (Tiziano Treu and Antonio Bassolino respectively) and was an active collaborator with the present Minister, Roberto Maroni. Mr Biagi's name was linked to the currently controversial issue of the revision of Article 18 of the Workers' Statute, part of the proposed labour market reform (it is proposed that some categories of workers dismissed unlawfully should no longer be reinstated, but given financial compensation instead). Even if he was not the author of the proposed changes to Article 18, Professor Biagi repeatedly suggested solutions to mediate between the positions of the government and the trade unions.

Marco Biagi was professor of labour law at the University of Modena and a well known and respected academic, not least in trade union circles. The Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl) in particular used Mr Biagi very often as a consultant and adviser. His opinions were frequently expressed in leading articles he wrote for the daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. Indeed, on the day of his murder, Professor Biagi called for a reform of the Italian labour market in line with final document approved at the European Council summit held in Barcelona on 15-16 March 2002 (EU0203205F).

Marco Biagi was a consultant to the European Commission's Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs and often worked with the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

The murder shocked and alarmed all the social partners. The current dispute over the government's reforms, which has recently become very sharp (IT0201277F), has taken on a dramatic aspect after the killing. All the parties involved are very seriously worried about a possible resumption of terrorism in Italy and a possible use of the dispute over the reforms by the terrorists for their own aims.

The leaders of the three main trade union confederations - the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), Cisl and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil) met after the murder. They expressed their sympathy and their 'sincere human and civil solidarity' towards Mr Biagi's family, and called a nationwide two-hour general strike on 20 March 2002 in protest, with workplace meetings and demonstrations in several cities. The strike in Bologna lasted four hours and coincided with a demonstration.

On 20 March, the secretariats of Cgil, Cisl and Uil decided to organise a joint national mobilisation on 27 March against terrorism and for democracy. Cgil decided to characterise a demonstration already called for 23 March as a protest against terrorism.

Sergio Cofferati, Cgil's general secretary, stated that 'the Italian trade unions will fight once again against terrorism, in order to defend democracy and its rules'. Savino Pezzotta, Cisl's general secretary, expressed deep concern about the current climate of social tension and invited all parties to resume discussion. 'Those who killed Marco Biagi damaged the workers' movement and introduced the use of violence, which is not part of our culture, into the social dispute,' commented Mr Pezzotta. Luigi Angeletti. the general secretary of Uil, stated that he did not believe that the terrorists were part of 'the labour world', but 'represent a scant minority of murderers who believe that millions of citizens can lose their freedom'.

According to Antonio D'Amato, president of the Confindustria employers' confederation, the continuing strained relations with the trade unions could have exacerbated the situation: 'while the country is being reformed, terrorism and hate have been triggered. This is the terrible price paid by Marco Biagi.'

The murder of Professor Biagi brought condemnation from beyond Italy. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) issued a joint statement condemning this 'act of terror. Professor Biagi’s contributions have been determinant in many studies and debates on industrial relations in Europe. He was highly respected for his expertise, independence of mind, commitment to social dialogue and strong engagement in favour European integration. A man has just been murdered, because of his ideas, in the European Union, at the beginning of the 21st century. The European business community and the European trade union movement could not remain silent.'

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