ITALY How to Defeat the Proposed “Regionalisation” of the Country?

The trade union centres CGIL-CISL and UIL called a nationwide protest in Reggio Calabria “to give a new impetus to the south”.

The Italian “populist” government, an alliance between the far-right League and the Five Star Movement (M5S), has been using the 2001 reform of the Constitution to impose the division of the country into regions under the heading of a “differentiated autonomy”. The goal is to impose the regionalisation of education, healthcare, public services, national contracts [collective-bargaining agreements and statuses – Ed.N], fiscal system, infrastructures and so on … to enable regions to be the direct interlocutors of the European Union. In short, this would mean the shattering of the Republic in the name of “free and unbiased competitiveness”. Meanwhile, the government — which is outwardly vocal against the European Union — is getting ready to activate a new batch of budget cuts in healthcare and public services to comply with Brussels requirements. 

In the education sector, mobilisations had started against the regionalisation project. All the trade unions had called to strike on May 17th … but they backed out after the signing on April 24th of an agreement that gives strictly no guarantees on anything. Besides, from the north to the south of the country, a string of trade unions and associations in defence of public education have risen up against the agreement and asked the unions to withdraw their endorsement. They have also called to continue mobilising against the regionalisation plan. Their appeal to mobilise became more urgent in the aftermath of the May 26th EU elections, when the government, urged by far-right Minister Salvini, put “differentiated autonomy” on its agenda. 

As for the trade union centres CGIL-CISL and UIL, they called a nationwide protest in Reggio Calabria “to give a new impetus to the south” [of Italy Ed.N], lambasting the government’s policies. 25 000 workers responded and marched under the banners of their workplaces, factories, ports, public services, and they called to do away with the “differentiated autonomy” and the government’s policies. 

Right after the protest march, Landini, the CGIL’s new general secretary, spoke: “We shall stop only when our platform is answered!” What is the content of this trade union platform? On regionalisation (“differentiated autonomy”), it reads: “The CGIL, CISL and UIL insist that they are for an institutional structure capable of strengthening the autonomy of the territories in the framework of national unity which abides by the principles of cooperation and solidarity. Gaining on autonomy does not simply mean keeping more resources in the territories (residual taxes) at the expense of the weaker regions such as those of the south. CGIL, CISL and UIL first and foremost consider the implementation of the clause as a constitutional one that will guarantee essential services …”. 

Are the CGIL, CISL and UIL leaders again seeking to lure the movement into the impasse of demanding a “good” regionalisation, “amendments” to the government’s project, a “good” implementation of the 2001 reform? 

One thing is certain: in the Reggio Calabria, workers showed they are ready to mobilise — and that is the major feature of the whole political situation today.* 

On Sunday July 7th, a national conference will be held in Rome for the withdrawal of the project of “differentiated autonomy”. Five associations in defence of public education initiated this call — among them the Manifesto of the 500, well known to La Tribune des Travailleurs readers — which proposed to widen the mobilisation and reach out to all sectors. At the time of this writing, 109 associations, committees, organisations of every sector, from healthcare to judges, from public services to environmental groups, from defence of democratic rights to associations of veteran activists and of course of defence of public education have responded to the call. 

What is at stake in this conference is to launch a call to the most comprehensive unity to halt the government’s regionalisation project. 

This move to promote resistance to the Salvini-Di Maio government from the point of view of workers’ interests sheds a crude light on the problem of a lack of political representation of workers in Italy. The editorial board of monthly paper Tribuna Libera, is fully involved in the Rome conference and proposes to workers and activists from all over the country to open this discussion.  Lorenzo Varaldo 

* No one can be deceived by Salvini’s recent so-called “victory” in the EU elections: with abstention rates standing at some 50 %, Salvini does not even represent one citizen out of five.