Labour Day speech addresses workplace deaths

Italian President’s Labour Day speech

Business News

President Sergio Mattarella said he was happy that jobs were growing in Italy in a speech for Wednesday’s Labour Day in Calabria on Tuesday.

The positive trend for employment concerns a large part of Europe, Italy in the lead, and this is a source of great satisfaction for all of us,” he told an audience of trade unionists, workers and local officials.

“It is good news that the number of jobs has increased, and also the number of permanent contracts.

So is the growth in female employment.

“Of course, we must not forget the social and territorial disparities that persist; the excluded; the phenomenon of precarious and underpaid jobs.

“The low wage level of young people’s first entry into the world of work, which induces many of them to go abroad for better conditions.”

Unions are “irrepressible interlocutors”

Mattarella also said that trade unions are “irrepressible interlocutors”; that labour is “not a commodity”; and that difficulties persist in the labour market for those with disabilities.

“Throughout the history of the Republic, important thrusts for progress, for the definition and dissemination of rights, for the modernisation of enterprises themselves have come from the confrontation between institutions and social partners,” he said.

“The intermediate bodies are a characteristic element of the design of our Constitution and benefit Italy.

“The trade union movement – bearer of democratic values – is an irrepressible interlocutor for the development of fruitful collective, sector and company bargaining.

Mattarella went on, “Work is indissolubly linked to the person, to his or her dignity, to his or her social dimension, to the contribution that each person can and must make to participation in the life of society.

“Work is not a commodity.

“It has a value in the market of goods and exchanges. Indeed, it is an essential element of it, because without the contribution of human creativity it would lack consistency and quality.” The president also stressed that “the ‘difficulties of those who bear a disability, the burden of care burdens that not infrequently push even families of those who have a job into need, persist.

“The positive indicators of the economic situation must encourage us to continue intelligently in the direction of economic growth based on equity and cohesion”.

Each workplace death unacceptable

Addressing the issue of workplace deaths, of which there have been 125 in 2024 so far, Mattarella said each is “unacceptable”.

“We cannot accept the continuous trickle of deaths, caused by carelessness, by recklessness, by risks that should not have been taken,” said the president on the spate that included seven workers killed in a hydro power plant blast near Bologna earlier this month.

“One thousand deaths at work in a year [2023] represents an unimaginable tragedy.

“Every one of these is unacceptable”.

Mattarella also appealed against the continuous exploitation of migrant workers by gang masters. This occurs mainly in the south of the country where foreign farm labourers toil on starvation wages picking crops for unscrupulous organisations including the mafia.

“In the agricultural supply chain, the issue of migration is of great importance.

“Migrant workers are an essential part of agricultural production and the subsequent processing of its products.

“But, in some cases, grey areas of labour – bordering on illegality, exploitation or even taking advantage of it – generate injustice and, in addition, insecurity, tensions, conflicts.

“And they provide space for criminal organisations.

“Vigilance is, therefore, a precise duty.

“On the criminal forms of ‘caporalato’ (gangmastering).

“On the inhuman conditions in which, in some cases, seasonal workers are thrown, sometimes without name or identity”.

Need to close not worsen the north-south gap

The Italian president also appealed not to worsen the north-south gap amid government plans for ‘differentiated autonomy’ that critics say would cause just that.

“The development of the Republic needs the revival of the Mezzogiorno,” said Mattarella.

Mezzogiorno refers to the regions that are associated with the people, lands or culture of the historical and cultural region that was once politically under the administration of the former Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. Its etymology (its literal translation is midday) refers to the intensity and the position of sunshine at midday in the south of the Italian peninsula.

 “It is right to emphasise how a balanced and quality growth of the South of Italy ensures great benefit to the entire national territory.

“A separation of the roads between territories in the North and territories in the South would cause serious damage to one and the other,” he said to loud applause.

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