The CGIL is Italy’s largest confederation of trade unions (secretary: Susanna Camusso) and includes as a member FIOM, the metalworkers’ federation (general secretary: Maurizio Landini; former president: Giorgio Cremaschi). Tension has been growing between CGIL and FIOM for some time and although there have been reassurances that all is well, it is obvious that all is far from harmonious.
What are the areas of contention?
The infamous agreement on representation regulates relations between big business’s Confindustria and the three confederal unions, CGIL, CISL and UIL, and limits workers’ trade union rights severely. Clashes started when Landini disagreed with Camusso about how the new agreement was approved. Although it was initially supported by both Camusso and Landini, Landini denounced a lack of internal democracy inside CGIL, and pushed the matter with Camusso. He eventually declared that unless CGIL undertakes a democratic consultation of all members of the trade union, FIOM will not recognize the agreement.
Landini’s position has led Camusso to ask the CGIL’s constitutional authority which sanctions could be eventually be taken against Landini. This has resulted in a deep and wide crack opening up between CGIL and FIOM. Despite Cremaschi’s reassurances that Landini still supports Camusso in her bid to renew her mandate as secretary (that is, he has not withdrawn his signature from Camusso’s nomination document), a large amount of uncertainty hangs over the future of the relationship.
Two further incidents have contributed to the widespread feeling of uncertainty amongst the membership.
On 14 February, a group of protesters close to Cremaschi interrupted a speech by Camusso and asked to take part in the debate. There was a serious confrontation between the two groups and it ended in a brawl, shaking union members throughout Italy.
On 7 March, the CGIL’s Turin federation approved a document, initially proposed by FIOM and later approved by other federations, which openly criticises and opposes the use and value of the Val Susa TAV project. This directly challenges Camusso’s endorsement of the project.
Final papers presented in December 2013 for CGIL’s 17th National Congress in early May in Rimini sum up the divisions. The work drives the future is supported by Camusso and a large majority of the national board. The trade union is a different thing was presented by Cremaschi and is supported by a minority of the national board.
For members today, it is clear that the CGIL is no longer as cohesive and strong as it once was, and also that the situation is very fluid. No-one knows how things will develop, either before or after the National Congress.
After a huge split emerged in the union during the Bologna congress, Danilo Gruppi, the current local secretary and close to Camusso, announced that he would not stand as a candidate. Bologna’s Camera del Lavoro (the local CGIL centre) is the biggest in Italy and this is the first time that its secretary will not be re-elected for a second mandate. The union is now at risk of a temporary period of ‘compulsory administration’ from central office.
Gruppi’s decision came after his final motion was approved, 227 votes for and 110 against. The strength of the opposition led to the modification of some key points. Delegates voted in favour of the public school system (in line with the results of the May 2013 referendum), common goods (such as publicly-owned water) and – most of all – rejecting the agreement about union representation. These votes indicate the strength of delegates’ opposition to Camusso’s and Gruppi’s approach over recent years and were possible because many of the local Camera del Lavoro’s delegates are members of FIOM. Yet another example of the unprecedented fracture in the most important union in Italy.