‘Disabled staff member won’t lose job’: Nestlé

Nestlé Italy said on Thursday that a disabled staff member, who was initially sacked for publicly criticizing company managers over Facebook, will no longer lose her job.

'Disabled staff member won't lose job': Nestlé
Marilena Petruccioli will no longer lose her job at Nestlé's Perugina plant. Photo: Photo: My aim is true

The decision was made during talks with union leaders from the Umbria branch of Fai-Cisl on Thursday, the company said in a statement.

Marilena Petruccioli, who works at the company's Perugina plant in Perugia, will instead be subjected to a disciplinary measure, rather than be dismissed, after a compromise was reached with the union.

Nestlé Italy said that the company and union fully agreed that food safety and hygiene standards are "non-negotiable" values of the company, with both sides recognizing the "inappropriateness of Petruccioli’s social media comments, because they could send out a misleading message about the importance of food safety".

The offence took place on October 30th, when Marilena Petruccioli posted a message on her Facebook page expressing her disgust after reading a disciplinary note from “the head of personnel” at "this company" in which the person purportedly compared a member of staff to a dog.

Petruccioli said in the post that the manager should be "put under review" for using the word 'collare', meaning 'dog collar', in reference to a foreman who had been disciplined for flouting health and safety rules at the company's factory in Perugia, La Repubblica reported.

"'Il collare' is worn by dogs, not people," she wrote. "Certain people who hold certain roles should be careful about the terms they use in certain official actions."

Although Pertuccioli, who is also a union representative for staff at the factory, didn’t name the company, she was dismissed earlier this month for "publicly attacking the company’s personnel managers".

Nestlé Italy said in a statement on Wednesday that Pertuccioli had "ridiculed" company managers on social media for their efforts in "enforcing stringent sanitation and security measures” in order to “protect workers, products and customers."

The company added that the disciplinary action referred to in the message was taken against a factory foreman for not wearing appropriate overalls while working on a production line.

It said the public comments had “undermined the authority” of those in charge of enforcing health and safety regulations.

“From a trade union representative, who has the responsibility of representing hundreds of people working in the largest plant of the Nesté group in Italy, we expected support and not criticism of efforts to ensure safety in the workplace.”

Pertuccioli has been working for the company since 1996 and was placed under Italy’s “protected” workers category after becoming disabled following a workplace accident in 1997.

Dario Bruschi, the president of Fai-Cisl Umbria, claimed the Facebook post referred to something that "happened in another company" and "that a series of circumstances might have led to the belief that it referred to Nestlé-Perugina".

But Nestlé Italy dismissed the claim, saying it "was misleading to attempt to represent and minimize the repeated comments of Mrs Petruccioli as being unrelated, or related to the context where she works." 

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Italian right hopes to conquer left stronghold in key vote

Italians head to the polls in Umbria Sunday for a regional election heralded as a key test for both the young left-leaning government and a zealous new right-wing opposition alliance.

Italian right hopes to conquer left stronghold in key vote
A view of the Umbria countryside. Photo: AFP

Firebrand Matteo Salvini is determined to wrest the hilly region prized for its truffles and prosciutto from the left, which has governed it for 70 years, by capitalising on a health scandal and biting economic crisis.

“Never before has Umbria, with its 884,000 inhabitants, been such an important thermometer for national politics,” the Sole 24 Ore daily said in the run-up to the vote.

Salvini collapsed Italy's previous populist government two months ago in a failed bid to spark a parliamentary election the then-deputy prime minister hoped to win.

He was thwarted by an unexpected tie-up between former foes, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which joined forces to stop him.

Salvini has since channelled all his energies into a return to power, allying his anti-immigrant League with the smaller, far-right Brothers of Italy, and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia.

The M5S and PD believe running together locally is the only way to stop the right from taking not only Umbria but also key regions such as the left-wing heartland of Emilia-Romagna, which votes early next year.

“If the first experiment of the PD-M5S alliance ends with a League triumph… someone at Palazzo Chigi (the prime minister's office) should ask themselves why,” Salvini said at a campaign rally this week.

Should the right win, the 46-year old could “attempt the ascent to Palazzo Chigi, winning one region after another”, the Sole 24 Ore said.

“A defeat, however, would sting: it would mean he had made the wrong moves from August 8th (when he toppled the government) onwards.”

The latest polls put the right's candidate, Donatella Tesei, ahead with between 48 and 52 percent, compared to between 41 and 45 percent for PD-M5S candidate Vincenzo Bianconi.

“Many consider Umbria to be as fundamental as Ohio is for the US presidential elections: here we'll see what kind of future the 'Yellow and Red' government has,” the Corriere della Sera newspaper said, referring to the M5S and PD colours.

But while the right “marches as one”, the government coalition “bickers, every day, about everything… which makes electoral campaigning difficult”, it said.

Salvini hopes to tap into disillusionment over an economic crisis worsened by a series of earthquakes that struck central Italy in 2016, killing hundreds of people and devastating towns and villages.

With over 90 percent of agricultural businesses in Umbria run by families, the widespread loss of livestock and damage to crops of saffron and lentils dealt a vicious blow, and recovery has been slow.

The region was already suffering from the economic crisis, which hit historic companies like chocolate maker Perugina hard.

Umbria's biggest factory, the Terni steelworks, has struggled for years and periodically risks closure.

The left is also hampered at the ballot box by a health sector scandal: Umbria governor and PD member Catiuscia Marini quit in April following a probe into competitive exams for the hiring of hospital staff.

Political watchers have warned a serious defeat of the M5S could mean curtains for its leader Luigi Di Maio, with potentially serious repercussions for the fragile governing coalition.

It could also spell bad news for PD leader Nicola Zingaretti, who was initially set against the M5S tie-up but has since staked his political future on its success.

The left-wing Repubblica daily said Di Maio and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte were losing sleep over the vote — though the latter has laughed that off, insisting “Umbria is not a test for the government.”

Italian pollster Renato Mannheimer agreed, saying Friday that “the real test will be in Emilia-Romagna in January.”

READ ALSO: Salvini seeks to unite Italian right with Rome rally