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In Italy, the dilemma of ILVA workers between employment defense and pollution control

The ILVA plant in Taranto, Italy, in November 2017.

In Taranto, in Apulia, employees voted to take over their highly polluting steelworks by the ArcelorMittal group.

On the outer walls of the church of San Francesco de Geronimo, in the center of Taranto (Apulia), these few words were written in black paint: “O acciaio o la vita, devi scegliere” (“Steel where life must be chosen “). How long has registration been there? One day, one week, one year? Impossible to know it: none of the passers-by questioned can say it. However, it summarizes, clinically, the terrible dilemma that faces for years this city of 200 000 inhabitants of southern Italy, whose main resource is precisely what makes it die.

In a way, it is to this impossible question that the 10,700 employees of the site of the ILVA of Taranto had to answer, in an internal referendum which was held from 10 to 13 September. Their verdict was almost unanimous, and unsurprisingly. At 94%, and with almost 70% participation, voters voted in favor of the site recovery plan formulated by the steel giant ArcelorMittal, concluded by an agreement with the Italian government, represented by Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio (5 Stars Movement), September 6th. In the coming days will begin a long transitional phase. The site should remain under public supervision until 2023.

Five years of reprieve at least, 4 billion euros of investment, guaranteed employment for more than 10,000 people, 100,000 euros of compensation for those who wish to leave … The employees could not dream better.

Heavy tribute paid to the maintenance of the factory

“In Italy, in the last twenty years, I do not see an example of such a generous plan,” agrees union leader Francesco Brigati (Fiom-CGIL), met in front of an entrance to the industrial site, banned journalists. Where does this gravity come from? It is difficult to have a light heart while no one can ignore …

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