A 24-HOUR general strike paralysed Italian towns and cities on Monday, while 127 Alitalia flights were cancelled and public transport ground to a halt.
The city centres of Milan and Rome were jammed with traffic, while many roads and central squares in were closed because of demonstrations, including Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Madonna di Loret.
Thousands of people marched in Rome, where there was a heavy police presence.
Roads were blocked due to marches in other cities including Naples and Genova on Monday morning.
The 24-hour general strike, for both public and private sector workers, was called by several of Italy’s national and regional trade unions to protest against government labour and economic policies, including those on working hours and pensions, as well as calling for more investment in schools and transport.
Meanwhile, Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) Secretary-General Maurizio Landini condemned last Saturday’s storming of the union’s headquarters, calling it a ‘fascist act’.
Thousands of people took to the Italian capital’s streets on Saturday against the expansion of the Italian Covid-19 health pass.
A group of protesters tried to reach the prime minister’s office while another – from the far-right organisation Forza Nuova – stormed the headquarters of CGIL.
Landini said in a statement: ‘(This was) an attack on democracy and on the world of work that we are determined to repel. No one should think they can take our country back to the Fascist years.’
Speaking after calling for an emergency general assembly, the CGIL leader told reporters on Sunday: ‘I believe that the future of our country is at stake, the quality of the future of our country because democracy is founded on the right to work and on social justice.’
He added that the union believes that compulsory vaccination for workers is ‘the best choice’.
Italian police said on Sunday they had arrested 12 people including the leaders of the extreme right-wing party Forza Nuova, after Saturday’s clashes in Rome.
On Monday, the French trade union federation issued a statement saying: ‘The CGT supports its comrades of the CGIL.
‘Several members of a small Italian ultra-right group Forza Nuova violently attacked the CGIL headquarters in Rome on Saturday, October 9th, on the sidelines of an anti-health pass demonstration.
‘The CGT testifies to its full support for the CGIL and asks that the extremist movements which are multiplying in Europe be fought and dissolved.
‘This attack on the Italian trade union movement reminds us that the extreme right, in Italy as everywhere in the world, is the enemy of workers.
‘The CGT stands alongside the comrades of the CGIL to firmly fight the nauseating ideas of the extreme right.’
CGIL General Secretary Landini, speaking in front of the devastated union headquarters, called for the dissolution of Forza Nuova and announced a major anti-fascist demonstration for this Saturday (October 16th).
‘They can’t intimidate us, they don’t scare us,’ he told the people who came to express their solidarity.
‘For the CGT, there can be only one answer to the resurgences of fascism, in Italy, in France as anywhere in the world: “No Pasaran!” ’
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary Luca Visentini sent a message of support to the CGIL General Secretary:
‘I would like to express to you the most sincere solidarity and full support of the European Trade Union Confederation for the shameful attack by right-wing extremists and No-Vax on the headquarters of the national CGIL yesterday.
‘As you rightly reminded us, trade unions, in Italy, in Europe and in the world, have always been the defenders of democracy, and it is no coincidence that the fascist and violent instrumentalisation of the anti-vaccine protests is directed against the trade union movement and CGIL in particular.
‘Please keep me informed about developments in this matter and the next steps you intend to take, which we will not fail to support.
Global union federation IndustriAll’s European branch said on twitter: industriAll Europe@industriAll_EU: ‘Solidarity from @industriAll_EU with our Italian comrades. We condemn this appalling fascist attack on the #Cgil headquarters in the strongest possible terms!
‘CGIL headquarters have been attacked and devastated today in Rome during a no green-pass demonstration. This is a vile fascist attack. Thanks for all the support and solidarity from unions and unionists in Europe and all over the world. United we stand!’
Demonstrators had marched in downtown Rome on Saturday in opposition to a government-validated certificate system, known as a ‘green pass’, that is not free of charge but which is now mandatory for all workers.
Many raised clenched fists or waved Italian flags, shouting ‘Freedom!’ and paraded banners that read ‘Get your hands off (our) work.’
At least one person was injured when an unauthorised march broke off from the main rally in Piazza Del Popolo, in Rome’s downtown, and attempted to reach Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office.
Police in riot gear blocked the demonstrators by forming a line and spraying water on them.
Videos posted on social media showed rioters, some of whom had covered their faces, throwing objects at police and damaging armoured vans.
Among them were proponents of extreme right-wing group Forza Nuova, who waved the Italian flag and extended their arm in a ‘Roman’ Fascist salute.
The mob reached the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy’s oldest trade union organisation, and briefly broke into its premises.
CGIL called for an emergency general assembly on Sunday to decide how to respond to the act, which was blamed on ‘fascist action squads’.
Prime Minister Draghi has phoned Landini to express ‘the government’s full solidarity for the assault that has taken place today in Rome’, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported.
‘Trade unions are a fundamental stronghold of democracy and of workers’ rights. Whatever intimidation they face must be repelled with absolute firmness,’ Draghi said in a statement.
Italy became in September the first country in Europe to make the ‘green pass’ compulsory in public and private workplaces starting on October 15.
To obtain one, employees must either have had at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, document recovery from the illness in the last six months, or test negative for the virus in the previous 48 hours.
Both employees and employers risk fines if they do not comply. Workers in the public sector can be suspended if they show up five times without a ‘green pass’.
One protester who identified himself only as Cosimo said that he and his wife Morena, who both work as nurses, had refused to comply because of immunity and allergy problems.
Despite being exempted from the vaccination requirement by their family doctor, ‘we were both suspended two months ago’ Cosimo said.
Stefano, who came from Como in the north to join Saturday’s protest, said he would take the test. ‘I have to pay to work, it’s absurd,’ he said.
During the summer, the certificate was already required in Italy to enter museums, theatres, gyms and indoor restaurants, as well as to take long-distance trains and buses or domestic flights.