Thursday the ILVA steel mill in Taranto, the factory with the highest number work-related deaths in Europe, has registered the death of yet another worker, while a second one is in a serious condition. The pair were in the coking plant, when the gangway on which they were standing, situated 15 meters above ground, collapsed. Ciro Moccia, 42 is the third person to die at the factory in the space of a mere four months. The last case was that of Francesco Zaccaria, trapped on a crane which fell into the sea during a tornado.
The situation in the plant and across the city of Taranto is very tense since the judiciary ruled that production should stop, Fabio Riva (the son of ILVA’s chairman) fled the country, and an ad hoc law was passed by the Monti government to circumvent the halt in production. Riva is on bail in London and awaiting his extradition hearing. He is accused of conspiring to cause environmental disaster, allowing the emission of noxious substances, and food contamination with dioxins.
ILVA is Europe’s largest steelworks. 800 million euros worth of steel are currently impounded. On 12 March, it will be announced whether this confiscation is permanent, which would lead to the sale of the goods by the judiciary system. Furthermore, the legitimacy of the special law signed by Monti in order to “save ILVA” will be examined by the Italian constitutional court on 9 April. Meanwhile, ILVA has ordered 6417 workers to be laid off and put on a reduced, public compensatory wage. In this way, ILVA forces the state to pay the workers’ salaries, even though the production stoppage was directly caused by the criminal negligence of its board.
Besides what is happening in Taranto, other current events underline the pitiable conditions of workers throughout Italy. The court in Turin is currently handling appeals against the Thyssenkrupp steel corporation for a large fire in its plant, widely recognised to have been caused by a lack of basic safety precautions, which killed seven people in 2007. Thursday, the judges rejected the charge of intentional murder against former CEO Herald Espenhahn. Originally, Espenhahn had been found guilty and sentenced to 16 years and 6 months in jail. The sentence was the first of its kind in Italy, and has since been considerably reduced, as the murder is now considered accidental. Years will pass before the supreme court pronounces its final judgment on the case.
At the end of the hearing, the relatives of the victims occupied the courtroom. “Your ruling has killed them again,” they told the judges.