Public prosecutor Patrizia Todisco has spoken: the Riva group, owner of the ILVA plant in Taranto – the biggest steel plant in Europe – has failed to invest in safety and renovation measures since 1995. This failure, to the tune of 8bn euros, has resulted in “disease and death” for a number of Taranto’s workers and citizens. There is a long way to go but the magistrature has so far requisitioned 2bn euros from the Riva group, with the most recent amount of 916m euros coming from more than 10 companies connected to the Riva family.
The owners have responded as they did when prosecutors charged them with environmental disaster, poisoning of food and intentional omission of safety measures in workplaces: they have sacked workers to lever (or blackmail) the government into action. This strategy, employed by a company worth 1% of Italian GDP, has worked before: both the Monti and Letta governments have rolled over and signed tailor-made laws allowing the Taranto plant to continue production without any economic repercussions for the owners.
In the most recent attempt, the Riva group announced on 11 September, just after the new requisition, that production would stop immediately in seven plants unrelated to ILVA, and about 1400 people would be laid off. Protests were held in all the plants involved, mostly located in Northern Italy. Riva’s goal is clear: to lean on state institutions to pass a new law that will provide a further shield for its activity. The government has already promised resources for the redundancy fund for workers left without a job by Riva and, as Claudio De Vincenti, Undersecretary for Economic Development, said “is looking for solutions to allow production to continue, in a way that is compatible with the requisition”. That is to say, a way to save both the Riva patrimony and the jobs – on Riva’s terms, of course.