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CLIMATE CRISIS

Italian factories on strike over extreme heat after worker dies

Italian factory workers have launched a strike after a man died while working at a automotive manufacturing plant outside Turin on Thursday.

A worker operates machinery at a factory in Trezzano sul Naviglio, near Milan, Northern Italy, on June 25, 2021.
A worker operates machinery at a factory in Trezzano sul Naviglio, near Milan, Northern Italy, on June 25, 2021. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

The man, 61, fell unconscious and hit his head while performing routine tasks, according to La Stampa news daily. Efforts by colleagues to revive him with a defibrillator were unsuccessful.

The official cause of death is currently being investigated by police, but with temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the country, heat exhaustion is thought likely to be responsible.

Factory workers from the local area organised an eight-hour picket on Friday outside the Dana Graziano plant in Rivoli where the man worked.

Italy is in the midst of a scorching mid-July heatwave, and most factories do not have air conditioning systems.

READ ALSO: Italy’s heatwave peaks with 16 cities on red alert as Tuscany burns

The Fiom CGIL metal workers’ union say they have recently received multiple reports of factory temperatures reaching over 35 degrees Celsius in the Piedmont area. At the Mirafiori Fiat manufacturing plant in Turin, workers have reportedly recorded highs of 40 degrees.

A previous strike called by auto parts workers on Tuesday protested the “intense pace of work” workers are required to keep up in the “unbearable heat of these past few days”.

“There are many of our members who are reporting illnesses in the factory due to the intense heat of the last few weeks,” Edi Lazzi, Fiom CGIL’s Turin general secretary, told La Stampa.

Italy does not have a nationally unified labor code, but worker’s rights are enshrined in the constitution and touched on in various laws. 

According to the site Lavori e diretti (work and rights), article 2087 of the Italian civil code requires employers to protect employees’ health and wellbeing. 

National legislation does not require companies to keep the workplace within any particular temperature range, though workplace accident insurance institute Inail recommends in summer there should not be more than a seven degree difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures.

A 2015 Supreme Court case recognised the right of workers to stop working while retaining the right to pay in excessively cold conditions.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Italian climate activists throw flour over Andy Warhol car

Italian environmental group Ultima Generazione on Friday poured flour over a sports car painted by Andy Warhol on display in Milan, in the latest of a wave of protests demanding action on climate change.

Italian climate activists throw flour over Andy Warhol car

Protesters entered the Fabbrica del Vapore exhibition space in Milan at around 11am on Friday morning and threw eight kilos of flour over a BMW sports car painted by the late Andy Warhol back in 1979. 

Two members of the environmental group Ultima Generazione (‘Last Generation’) then proceeded to glue their hands to the car’s windows. 

At the time of writing it wasn’t clear whether the artwork, valued at 10 million euros, had suffered any significant damage.

“They told us beauty will save the world, but that’s bullshit,” Ultima Generazione sad in a statement released immediately afterwards.

“Only immediate and radical actions to tackle the effects of the current climate crisis will change the world as we know it.”

Activists from Italy’s Ultima Generazione after their latest protest in Milan on Friday, November 18th. Photo: Ultima Generazione.

In the same statement, the group referred to the Italian government’s handling of the environmental crisis as “criminal”, accusing people in power of “endangering people’s lives”.

Friday’s episode was only the latest in a series of demonstrations seeking to jolt public opinion over the consequences of climate change and the need to make the switch to renewable energy sources.

READ ALSO: Climate activists hurl pea soup at Van Gogh painting in Rome

Only two weeks ago, on November 4th, protesters from the same group hurled pea soup at a Van Gogh painting in Rome – an action which Italy’s new culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, later condemned as “ignoble”. 

Ultima Generazione began in 2021 as a “campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience” aimed at uniting Italian activists concerned about climate change and the future of the planet.

The group has two main demands. Firstly, they ask that the reopening of old coal power plants be paused immediately and that all scheduled fracking operations be cancelled. 

Secondly, they want an increase in the use of solar energy and wind power equivalent to at least 20 gigawatts. 

Ultima Generazione is part of a EU-wide network of climate activists who have been recently targeting world-famous artworks, including Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” in The Hague, Netherlands and Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” in Vienna.

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