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Italy’s rail unions call strike on Friday over ‘shameful’ number of deaths at work

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The Local/AFP ([email protected])
Italy’s rail unions call strike on Friday over ‘shameful’ number of deaths at work
Maintenance staff working on Italy’s freight railway lines will strike on Friday after five workers were killed in an accident on a line in northern Italy. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Furious trade union leaders have announced strikes on Friday, September 1st, following the deaths of five railway maintenance workers on Wednesday night.

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The head of the CGIL union, Maurizio Landini, called a four-hour nationwide strike on Friday for RFI maintenance staff in protest at the number of deaths at work in Italy, while the USB union announced a 24-hour strike starting on Friday afternoon for some transport workers.

"We have been condemning for some time the serious issues - never resolved - regarding safety procedures in the maintenance of the rail network," Landini said.

READ ALSO: Five maintenance workers killed in northern Italy train accident

"There is so much anger... It's time to say enough, enough deaths at work."

Five railway workers died and two were reportedly injured after being hit by a train during overnight maintenance works in northern Italy, triggering outrage among the country’s trade unions and opposition politicians.

The head of transport union Uiltrasporti, Claudio Tarlazzi, said the accident was "shameful and unworthy of a civilised country".

The strikes were expected to involve freight railway workers only, and appeared unlikely to affect passenger trains on Friday.

READ ALSO: The transport strikes to expect in Italy in September 2023

Elly Schlein, head of the centre-left Democratic Party, on Thursday demanded an urgent plan of investment in safety in the workplace.

Offering her condolences to the victims' families, she said: "One thing is already certain - we cannot be a country where people continue to die at work."

Italy recorded 776 fatal accidents on the job in 2020, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat - by far the highest number in the bloc.

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When adjusted for population size and the importance of different industries however, the incidence rate is comparable to those in France and Austria, at around three per 100,000 people employed.

The transport ministry announced an investigation into Wednesday’s fatal accident, in addition to probes by judicial authorities and the rail network.

"Prosecutors and technicians are investigating how such a dramatic accident could have happened," said Matteo Salvini, Italy’s transport minister and deputy premier.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered her "deepest condolences" and said she was closely following the case, "with the hope of shedding light on what happened as soon as possible".

The accident was the latest tragedy on Italian railways in recent years.

Two rail workers died and 31 passengers were injured in February 2020 when a train derailed before dawn near Lodi, south of Milan.

And in January 2018, three women died and about 100 people were injured when a packed train derailed near Milan, an accident blamed on poor track maintenance.

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