[Piacenza] GLS worker run over and killed during a strike

gls worker killed

On September 15th, we woke up to terrible news: during a strike at a GLS warehouse in Piacenza, Northern Italy, one of the workers was run over and killed by a truck trying to break through the striking workers.

This death makes it perfectly clear what really counts for those in charge: profit. It is a goal that surpasses all others: it wants us to be “flexible”, work all night, during the holidays, whenever there is need; to be productive, to work 20 hours, half of which unpaid (a situation all too common in the warehouses of the logistical branch). It pushes Renzi’s government to reduce the inspection powers of INAIL (the national work inspection agency) and to replace safety rules with self-certifications on behalf of the company. It is that thirst for profit that will goes as far as to physically crush people if they dare to organize in order to defend the few rights they have left at their workplace.

This is what happened that night to a 53 year old Egyptian worker, Abdelsalam El Danaf, that was on strike alongside his colleagues outside a warehouse of Seam, a subcontractor of GLS. Struggles against the latter and other major companies of the logistical branch over the last few years have revealed the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of multinational corporations that become richer and richer every day and those of the workers that are more and more exploited every day. However, the struggles have also shown the many instances in which those same workers organized themselves to tackle this situation and fight for more humane working conditions.

The situation at GLS is common to companies and “cooperatives” of the logistical branch and, unfortunately, to companies and factories of other branches as well: the workers were protesting to achieve the regularization of 13 contracts that should have already been regularized if the company had not broken the agreements. This why, on September 14th, the USB (a grassroot union) had launched an assembly of all workers to discuss Seam’s refusal to abide by the terms agreed upon in May that would have reinstated the temporary workers. The staff decided to go on strike immediately, blocking the entrance to the warehouse.

As often in these situations tensions were high, for strikes in the logistical branch directly affect the company’s revenue. How often did we see those scenes? The long line of trucks, blocked at the entrance of the warehouse, the provocations against the striking workers, the pressure on the truck drivers to push through the crowd and end the strike, the shouts “crush them, crush them!” A lot of times, things go well and nothing happens. Sometimes, you narrowly escape tragedy, as it happened in Turin last year where a supporter was rushed to the hospital after having been run over by a van. This time, unfortunately, tragedy ensued. As the USB writes in its press release: a representative of the company had put pressure on the truck driver for some time, telling him to “drive, drive!” before the truck actually drove into the striking workers, running over Abdelsalam who died instantly. The driver was then “rescued” by law enforcement officers from what could have turned into a lynching.

Abdelsalam’s death is yet another case to add to the thousands of people that lose their lives every day because companies try to save money on safety measures or because they try to impose unbearable work rhythms. However, this time it hurts even more because this worker was killed as he was fighting to change this very situation, fighting to achieve more dignified working conditions. This is why they killed him. Because the companies’ and corporations’ profits are not compatible with respect for human life. Because what they gain is more important than human life. But, how is it possible that we have to live in a climate of constant terror and physical and psychological violence just because we want our rights to be respected? How is it possible that people die fighting for dignified work?

That night, the striking workers in Piacenza shouted “ammazzateci tutti – kill us all!” – even if that is already what you are doing, limiting our striking rights, paying poverty wages, having us work impossible hours – you cannot intimidate us and you will not stop us!

Our solidarity goes out to the family and friends of Abdelsalam, to all our other comrades in Piacenza and to all of those who bravely resist and fight every day!

There have been solidarity strikes and demonstrations all over the country.