On Tuesday 14th January, in northern Milan, trade unionist Fabio Zerbini was brutally beaten by two men suspected to be connected with Italian organised crime.
Fabio Zerbini is a co-ordinator for the SI Cobas, a base union that is active in the logistics and warehouse sector. A few days before he had found his car’s side-view mirror broken. A note had been left on his windscreen with an apology and a phone number to call to arrange a meeting to refund the damage. It was at this meeting that two men savagely attacked Fabio, with one of them saying “If the workers continue to strike and break our balls, you will come to a bad end”.
Last week’s attack has seen a jump in the style of attacks against the union. Fulvio di Giorgio, another SI Cobas co-ordinator, said, “We were used to slashed tyres and burnt cars but they had never gone as far as a real beating.”
Before the attack, Fabio had been involved in several industrial disputes, making it difficult to understand exactly which one the men were referring to. For instance, he had been involved in the strike of 80 workers at the Kuehne-Nagel warehouse in Santa Cristina in mid-December, where workers won union recognition and adherence to the conditions laid out in the national contract (as well as the retraction of four politically-motivated sackings). Similarly, in a Carrefour warehouse just outside Milan, the company Serim were forced to recognise the union and begin discussions with the workers.
In this attack, though, many strongly suspect the involvement of the Mafia. A system of exploitation rules in the industrial belt across northern Italy from which contractors profit, contractors who are sometimes in the hands of organised crime. An investigation in 2011 led to six branches of TNT being put into receivership after it was discovered that the services had been contracted out to a section of the ‘Ndrangheta (a criminal organisation from Calabria, southern Italy). And in 2009, for example, Marcello Paparo, a businessman also connected to the ’Ndrangetha, was arrested for, among other offences, beating a worker at one his consortium’s warehouses for being a trade unionist who “created problems”.
The attack prevented Fabio from attending a workers’ assembly at Santa Cristina but another meeting on struggles within the logistics and warehouse sector was organised for January 19th. As SI Cobas state in their press release, “We won’t let them intimidate us”.
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