MASS protests have been held in Italy calling for the release of eight trade unionists held under house arrest after they organised strikes and protests at major logistic companies.
The members of the Si Cobas and USB trade unions have been held for more than a week following a 350-page indictment of the Piacenza Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The trade union militants are charged with instigating strikes and protests at warehouses belonging to Amazon, FedEx-TNT and Nippon Express.
Police raided the national headquarters of USB earlier this year on the pretext that they were searching for weapons after the union held protests at a number of ports over arms to be used in Ukraine.
In March they grounded a plane at Pisa after it was found to be loaded with weapons headed to Ukraine instead of humanitarian aid, triggering a debate in parliament.
And in May, Italian workers held a national general strike under the slogan “lower your weapons, raise our wages” in protest over increased military spending and poverty pay.
Italy is now the sixth-largest weapons manufacturer in the world and has agreed to raise military spending from 1.4 per cent to 2 per cent of GDP, as stipulated by Nato.
Last week, unions put out a communique saying they are facing a “large-scale political attack aimed at outlawing strikes and bargaining in companies.”
The Italian Front of Communist Youth demanded the immediate release of the trade unionists, accusing the authorities of seeking to criminalise the workers’ struggle.
“The criminal organisation is the corporate bosses and their governments,” it said in a statement.
“We are ready to respond swiftly to any attack. This should only be the first step in building a great united general strike of all class and combat forces. The repression will not prevail — the class struggle will crush it!” the communists vowed.
And the Greek Communist Party has called for clarity from the European Commission, asking it to take a stand and demand the trade unionists’ acquittal and immediate release, while the World Federation of Trade Unions has called upon its affiliates to hold protest actions at Italian embassies and consulates.
The Italian coalition government collapsed last week after Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned, having lost the support of his coalition partners.
A general election will be held in September with the far-right Brothers of Italy predicted to make gains and head a new coalition government.