After months of difficult struggle – in which workers blocked major roads, occupied rooftops and fought with police – an agreement has been reached at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital. The agreement was reached with unions early on the morning of Friday 10th May, after 16 hours of negotiation, and was finally accepted by workers on the 16th after a series of assemblies.
As with the previous agreement, which was rejected by workers earlier this year, all redundancies have been stopped in return for workers accepting a 9% cut in pay. The 66 workers who had already received redundancy notices will also be reinstated. However, unlike in the last agreement, hospital bosses have also agreed that no workers will be moved from the public healthcare national contract to the (much worse) private one. Furthermore, it was agreed that changes made to contracts at San Raffaele would not have negative effects on the overall national collective agreement in healthcare. Finally, it was agreed that pay cuts would not come solely from people’s monthly salaries but also from benefits negotiated individually between workers and various levels of managers and middle-managers.
During the struggle at San Raffaele, which started when over a billion euros was found to be missing from hospital finances due to management corruption, workers held demonstrations blocking major roads and metro stations, blocked the hospital’s payment counters and fought with police in the hospital grounds.
The major union confederations were almost completely absent in this struggle, organised primarily through assemblies called by USI-AIT and USB. The CGIL, the most left-wing of the major unions, had even previously signed a much worse agreement with the hospital, which was then rejected by the majority of employees.
“Struggle pays,” explained the USB on May 10th, “and does good for jobs and the quality of services. If it had been up to the CGIL, CISL and UIL, who are celebrating this victory today, the current proposed agreement would not have happened, as these organisations had accepted all of management’s demands from the beginning.”
As a statement from USI-AIT explains, though this cannot be seen as a total victory, it was a “decisive response to a heavy attack from the bosses.”
“Always hoping,” the statement continues, “that each little event will lead eventually to the death of the concept of healthcare as a commodity, we thank all the workers who struggled […] and contributed to this result.”