The night between the 28th and 29th of November the logistics workers of the main TNT warehouses in Italy, organized by SiCobas and AdlCobas, went on strike for two hours, to send a signal to the executives of the multinational and to its corporate restructuring plan that includes substantial cuts to the workforce. A signal aiming at opening a negotiation in which the voice of workers intends to make itself heard.
A signal which however goes well beyond the specific situation that these workers, the vast majority migrants, are living within the warehouses they work in. As well explained by Mourad , Mustapha and Sami, theirs is also a signal against a condition characterized by the institutionalized blackmail of residence permits, temporary contracts and the cooperative system that in addition to acting as modern day foreman often doesn’t not even pay their contributions. A signal given to the boss who continues to seek the best strategies to exploit them, and the State, which through the Bossi-Fini law and the system of administrative management of residence permits determines the conditions by which a large part of the workforce is continually forced to accept whatever the boss offers. As ha been the case for at least a year now , especially in the warehouses of the logistics sector, it isn’t always guaranteed that the migrant workers always say yes. Thursday night, by rejecting the condition that the bosses wanted to shacle them to, they said no. They sent a signal. A signal directed to all other workers and all other migrants, to show them that raising ones head you can win , against exploitation and against the institutionalized racism of the Bossi-Fini law. Read translated excerpts from the interviews made during the strike:
We want to send a message to TNT because they are messing with us. They want to lay off workers and they want to scare the workers so that they don’t strike. A TNT official told us: beware, don’t make a fuss, or else the same thing that happened to the workers of Granarolo, whose residency permits their threatening to block, will happen to you. They don’t scare us however, we know that struggle gets results. We are now on strike in TNT Bologna, Padua, Verona, Milan, Turin; TNTs all over Italy. TNT needs to understand this signal that we have given. We will block every TNT wharehouse in Italy.
This strike is because TNT is playing dirty, they are moving stuff toward the other branches to make it appear that there is no work here, to make us accept severance at a price that is cutrate. So with Sicobas we have gone on strike for 2 hours to give TNT a signal, that they have to deal with our union and find an agreement.
Now we are trying to claim our rights but we are still halfway. We work at night for 1100 euros a month. They made the 13th and 14th monthly installments on the paycheck, with installments of 100 Euros per month for the 13th and another 100 for the 14th . If you take away from your paycheck the 13th and the family allowance only 950 euros remain. It’s a fake contract. Before we only made 800-900 euros a month. Now we’ve taken a step forward and they’re trying to erase it.
This strike is just a signal, a warning, maybe the next will be longer, maybe 24, 48 hours. Before we were here as slaves, no one knew anything, we worked here with our heads down, you must not look at anyone, do not talk to anyone, do not ask for your rights. Before we didn’t even know how our paychecks worked. Now we are claiming our rights as the Italian citizens do because we are second class citizens.
Mourad + Sami (video):
We are saying to TNT that if, by Tuesday, you do not give an answer, we will intervene politically. And our politics is struggle, and struggle gets results, because if it does not hit the wallets of the bosses, it won’t conquer any rights or even be listened to. This … is a signal , we are saying to TNT that we are united, we are all here, either as Si Cobas or as Adl Cobas, because someone has to get up from their chair at TNT and answer us.
This is a master strategy: moving some of the work to other wharehouses and then telling us “the work load has dropped off, and that they have to cut staff. But the sales volume of TNT is the same, it’s not that customers have run off …
Years ago we got 800 Euros a month, even with the struggles we have arrived in some cases to 1600 . They have not yet announced how many layoffs there will be, but they have talked about layoffs and severance. Years ago they just sent you straight home, ruining entire families.. All workers have realized that with the CGIL you can’t do anything, because they do nothing for the workers. We also saw years ago, with colleagues of ours who had gone to the CGIL, but before they walked out the door the boss called them and said, “why did you go with the CGIL?”. This means that the bosses with the CGIL are one big family.
The Bossi-Fini law is ruin for migrants. It is a law that says migrants are made to be exploited, because it ties the renewal of the residency permit to the employment contract. Again, there is a master strategy: give us contracts for a few months, so you can’t raise your head, because you have to renew your immigration papers. But migrants have raised their heads, because we cannot go on living like this .
Its not possible that a person who has lived here all their life, who has raised children in Italy, then is hunted and sent back to Morocco because they lost their job or because you have to maintain a high income. I presented application for renewal of my fathers papers to the Police headquarters in Ferrara, we had the income requirements , but they say that my father didn’t have the right to renew because he doesn’t work. But I ask: is it the Italian state that feeds my father? No … The Bossi-Fini law is a ruin, it must be abolished!
Co-operatives work like this only in Italy. This is a nightmare for us employees, us migrants. Because cooperative workers are mostly migrants, and you have no rights, you can’t talk, they do not even pay your contributions. They often pay off the books, ” legitimate off the books “… do you know what ” legitimate off the books” means? What if you go to camera del Lavoro say there are no contributions paid, then eventually every 2 years the cooperative “changes jacket” they simply change the name: they go out the door and enter through the window.
We live here as illegal immigrants, our status is regular, but we live as illegal immigrants. We have no rights, in Italy if you are a foreigner you’re expected to shut up. You can only talk if they give you permission. There are migrants who have lived here for 12 years, working as porters for 7-800 Euros a month and do not speak up. Hopefully with the struggle that we are carrying out things can change.