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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

Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy’s River Po

Historically low water levels in northern Italy's River Po exposed an unexploded WWII-era bomb over the weekend.

Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy's River Po

Bomb disposal experts from the Italian military were called on to safely detonate the 450kg bomb, which they achieved via a controlled explosion on Sunday.

Around 3,000 residents from the nearby village of Borgo Virgilio near Mantua in northern Italy were evacuated as a safety precaution, according to army officials.

“At first, some of the inhabitants said they would not move, but in the last few days, we think we have persuaded everyone,” the village’s mayor Francesco Aporti told Reuters.

READ ALSO: Venice shuts down for WWII-era bomb removal

The bomb, which reportedly contained 240kg of explosives, was transferred to a quarry approximately 30km away from where it was discovered before being blown up.

The device came to light after a months-long drought – described as Italy’s worst in 70 years – caused parts of the River Po to dry up, leaving its riverbed exposed for the first time in decades.

Italy, along with much of continental Europe, has suffered from a series of extreme heatwaves over the summer, causing devastation to its agricultural sector and a sharp increase in wildfires.

The approximately four thousand risotto rice paddies in the Po Valley around the River Po have been particularly hard hit, with farmers forced to abandon some fields altogether try to rescue others.

READ ALSO: Italy’s risotto rice fields decimated by worst drought in decades

“The situation is desperate, not to say apocalyptic,” one rice farmer told AFP news agency in late July.

Italy supplies more than half of the European Union’s rice, most of which is grown in the Po Valley in a 220,000-hectare area stretching west from Pavia in Lombardy to Vercelli and Novara in Piedmont.

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