It has been a week of renewed struggle at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital, with mass meetings, rooftop occupations, demonstrations and fights with the police.
After months of calm since the last round of protests at the end of 2012, Monday 15th April saw the first 40 (of 244) redundancy letters sent out, and with it a new round of struggle. Workers called a general assembly and decided to occupy the hospital reception, blocking all 32 payment counters. After this, the workers held a demonstration out on the street in front of the hospital, occupying a roundabout on a major ring road and blocking traffic.
The next morning saw more protests as at least 80 workers again tried to occupy the hospital reception. This time they were met with police aggression and, in the scuffles that followed, three workers were hurt. Following these protests, around thirteen workers then climbed up onto the roof of the hospital, calling for the regional government to reopen the discussions with the unions and stop the redundancies, eventually only coming down at around 7pm.
However, Friday 19th saw the heaviest fighting yet, when 300 workers, after a general assembly and demonstration around the hospital, attempted once more to occupy the reception area. Once again they were met by police, this time in riot gear. In the scuffles which ensued, one nurse was hurt, having been knocked down, hitting her head on the floor and needed to be taken to Accident and Emergency.
Eventually, however, the workers overcame the police, some pushing their way past, others getting in through a side door. With the reception occupied and all 32 payment counters blocked once more, the workers broke into chants of “Via, via, la polizia” (rough translation: “police, go away!”). The reception would be occupied until about 2pm.
The struggle at San Raffaele has been organised by the workers themselves, mostly members of the base union USB and the anarcho-syndicalist USI-AIT. The major unions (CGIL, CISL and UIL) have had little influence on the struggle, arguing that, rather than scrapping the cuts entirely, the unions should be allowed to decide which cuts to make. Indeed, Friday’s protest saw an attempted intervention by a CGIL full-timer interrupted by workers.
Meanwhile, workers complain of heavy-handed policing against workers. Angelo Mulè, delegate from USI-AIT, stated that San Raffaele is becoming a “militarised hospital”.
“It’s enough for a little group of (workers) to get near the reception area and (the police) spring into action with blockades and there are moments of tension,” he explained.
More protests have been called for Monday 22nd and the base unions have called for a strike throughout the healthcare system – both public and private – across the region of Lombardy.