By Steven Martin Kensington
Russian news site ‘Russia Today’ recently held a live stream of Italian steel workers protesting 5000 jobs being cut from the steel company Ilva. The protest was held in Genoa, the capital of the Italian region Liguria.
Ilva is one out of two companies in ‘Group Riva’, the third largest steel producer in Europe and eighteenth largest in the world. In 2012, Ilva was the largest steel facility in Europe, but was declared insolvent earlier this year with debts totaling €3 billion.
The plant was due to close in 2012, which would have led to 12000-20000 jobs lost. The announcement was made just days after the plant was hit by a tornado, where two dozen were injured, but the plant sustained significant damage. The reason for the potential closure was because of an Italian study done the year before finding that Taranto suffered from a “mortality excess” of between 10-15% due to release of dioxin and other chemicals causing cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Eight Ilva executives were arrested for bribing officials to cover up environmental damage at the sprawling site, and steel and semi-finished products were seized. Ilva denied their operations related to the elevated mortality rates in the region. The Italian government tried saving the company to the best of their abilities, and promised a €336m clean-up program for the city. The plant produced 30% of Italy’s total steel output in 2011.
The plant was then privatized and its majority shares sold to India’s ‘ArcelorMittal’ and Italy’s ‘Marcegaglia’. Some 1000 protesters, including members of local trade unions and Ilva workers, protested this in Genoa, early June, claiming this would lead to 5000 jobs cut, which they recently, a few months later, announced they would. The protesters reportedly met with officials like the Prefect of Genoa, Mayor of Genoa and President of Liguria region, demanding the protection of employee’s rights, particularly in compliance with an employment contract agreement signed in 2005.