Strikes of African agricultural workers have taken place in Italy, sparked by the deaths of 16 workers in two separate incidents caused by unsafe transport conditions over the span of 48 hours. The strike began in the workers’ shanty town named ‘‘The Great Ghetto’’ near Foggia, and over 200 individuals marched 10 kilometres to the fields where they work to protest their conditions, chanting “we are not slaves”.
Many receive only €1 for picking 100kg of tomatoes – this is less than half the going rate, due the fact they are being super-exploited because of their migrant status. The owners of the large farming businesses that are responsible for hiring the migrant workers strive to increase profits at the expense of the living and working conditions and even the lives of their employees.
The establishment in Italy has sought to scapegoat immigrant workers for the high levels of unemployment and attacks on living standards brought about by the capitalist crisis. This led to the recent election of a right-wing, populist government which has promised to ‘get tough’ on immigration, even turning away boats of refugees fleeing conflict. In reality, these politicians have no solutions to the problems facing working-class people. The way to fight for a better future is by building a united movement of all workers – native and immigrant – against the bosses and their political lackeys to demand decent pay and mass investment in jobs, homes and services for all.
In this context, it was positive to see sections of the trade union movement standing in the solidarity with the migrant workers’ strike. However, this unity must be urgently broadened and built upon in struggle, and connected to the crying need for a fighting, left political alternative.