General Strike In Italy: Mario Draghi’s First Test On The Street

General strike in Italy: Mario Draghi's first test on the street

The Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, has received numerous praises in editorials in the international press about his management in the nearly 10 months that he has been in charge of the country. Its ability to hold together an impossible coalition, which ranges from the populist ultra-right of Matteo Salvini’s League to the pro-left center-left of the Democratic Party (PD), as well as the good pace of reforms to secure European funds.

The national press, which also supports his management, speaks of vigorous GDP growth with an unprecedented increase in foreign investment, driven by the confidence generated by the figure of the former president of the European Central Bank (ECB). Polls give him more than 60% support among citizens.

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Still, this Thursday he will face the street test. Two of the three main unions in the country have called a general strike for December 16. The announcement of the mobilizations caught the Government by surprise. The current head of the “national unity” Executive will have to confront the same citizens who have not voted for him directly, like so many Italian “premiers”.

The strike is motivated as a protest against government budgets. The leaders of the CGIL and UIL unions regret that the increase in public spending and the cut of up to 12,000 million euros in taxes will not serve to reduce inequalities in the country or guarantee a fair way out of the crisis. The strike will last all day 16, but the health sector will be excluded due to the pandemic situation.

“We wanted to represent the voice of a country where everything is not going well. To be the voice of the disillusioned, there is still a lot of suffering, social unrest that these budgets do not address,” UIL Secretary General Pierpaolo Bombardieri said at a press conference.

The idea of ​​the strike is to ride a supposed wave of growing unrest that neither the polls nor the media detect, but that the unions are convinced that it exists. “Draghi’s ‘national unity’ government has de facto eliminated politics and many debates do not find channels of channeling,” Italian political scientist Lorenzo Castellani told elDiario.es.

“We are going on strike to defend a different idea of ​​recovery in this country,” says the union members’ statement in the announcement of the day. The most progressive sectors of Italy believe that the Draghi government represents a “lost opportunity” to promote profound changes in reforms and public investments for a way out of the crisis “on the left.”

The social agents consider that the budgets do nothing to protect those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, but rather by the highest incomes and by the companies that have not been affected by the pandemic.

With different nuances, the parties reject the strike because they believe that it goes against the current political-economic moment and because all, with the exception of the far-right Brothers of Italy, are part of the Government.

At the moment, nothing suggests that the strike will have a great following, according to the parties themselves and the Government. The unions ask to reopen the negotiations to call off the strike and the Government refuses.

It has been difficult for Draghi and his economic team – largely made up of former members of the Banca d’Italia – to have all the parties agree to important concessions to the left and right. The maintenance of the citizen guarantee income, a reduction in taxes and partial respect for the Quota 100 pension system, promoted by the League and the 5-Star Movement (M5E) when they shared the government from 2018 to 2019, and which allowed to retire to 62 years if 38 had been listed.

Maurizio Landini, general secretary of the CGIL, dismisses all parties as irresponsible alike. In addition, he accuses them of “disavowing” Draghi in the negotiations. Landini explained that in his conversations with the prime minister there was a commitment not to cut taxes on the highest incomes this year, and that this measure was included in the first draft of the accounts. “Later, the parties made him disappear, leaving the premier in a very bad place,” he said.

The social unrest that Draghi has faced for now has been more related to measures to hinder social and work life for the unvaccinated than not for economic reasons. Denialist and neo-fascist groups attempted to storm the government headquarters in October and vandalized the headquarters of the CGIL union in Rome. The first test against Draghi street was precisely on October 15, the day the COVID passport came into force to go to work. It was feared that the country would come to a standstill, but in the end, beyond the protests among the longshoremen in Trieste, everything continued to function normally.

A large general strike followed en masse – which for now does not seem to happen – could have important consequences in the Executive and in the parties, which at the moment value being with Draghi more positively than facing him.

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