Friday, September 30, 2016

Italy: Protests continue for Egyptian worker killed on picket line

Mada Masr
Protests continue in Italy in solidarity with Egyptian worker killed on picket line

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jano Charbel

Italian workers, unionists and labor activists continue protests two weeks after the death of Egyptian worker Abdel Salam al-Danf in the northern city of Piacenza and other locations across the country.

Danf was fatally injured on September 14 by a truck at a General Logistics Services (GLS) plant in Piacenza, where he was employed and striking to demand that managerial staff uphold contractual agreements for 13 of his co-workers.

The plant at Piacenza is owned by the parcel delivery company GLS, but is contracted to the SEAM company, which recently sacked over 37 temporary workers.

Staff at the plant say managerial staff urged a driver to use his truck to break the picket line on the night of September 14.

A day of national protests was observed at several locations across Italy from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. Most protests were organized and coordinated by the USB union (Unione Sindacale di Base) and the Cobas union confederation (Confederazione dei Comitati di Base), along with the Communist Refoundation Party (Rifondazione Communista), among others.

The 53-year-old father of five, who was formerly a teacher in Egypt, was a member of the USB labor union, and a longtime employee at the GLS plant in Italy.

The USB union explained on its webpage that a strike and picket line was organized at the Piacenza plant on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to demand justice for Danf and “fight for the recognition of the rights of precarious labor.”

Mario Cipriani, an Italian video maker and social media journalist, who took part in the protests, told Mada Masr that strikes are being organized at Piacenza’s GLS warehouses for the next six days.

Cipriani explained why Danf’s death is so significant. “Over the past 30 years in Italy, nobody has been killed during a strike,” he said, adding that chants and slogans used during protests were: “We are all Abdel Salam” and “GLS are killers.”

Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that prosecutors are investigating the circumstances surrounding Danf’s death, including viewing footage from a surveillance camera at the plant.

Citing Alfredo Zampogna, a lawyer for the GLS management, La Repubblica reported: “The videos in our possession reveal that there was no incitement” by managerial staff to use the company’s truck to break the picket line.

It is not yet clear if the Danf family, who have been long-term residents in Italy, will take legal action against the GLS or SEAM management at the Piacenza plant.

The hashtag #Abdesselem was used widely in Italy to commemorate Danf, express solidarity with his family, and to spread information regarding local protests in the wake of his death.

Diplomatic relations have been strained between Egypt and Italy since the beginning of this year, when 28-year-old Italian researcher and PhD candidate Giulio Regeni was found dead on a road in one of Cairo’s suburbs on February 3, with his body showing clear signs of torture.

Regeni had been researching labor issues and Egypt’s independent labor union movement before his disappearance on January 25th, the fifth anniversary of the popular uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.

While it is not clear who is responsible for Regeni’s death, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior has repeatedly denied any responsibility, despite speculation security forces may have been involved.

Initial police reports claimed Regeni died in a traffic accident, the Ministry of Interior then claimed forces had shot dead five suspects in a gang responsible for kidnapping, torturing, and murdering the Italian student.

The UN-affiliated International Labor Organization issued a statement in April, calling on the Egyptian government to “clarify all the facts surrounding the death of Mr. Regeni.”

Shortly after the discovery of Regeni’s body in February, the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) issued a statement expressing “great sorrow for the killing of the Italian student,” dismissing claims that Egyptian security forces were involved in Regeni’s disappearance, torture, or death.

“The ETUF refuses this harsh attack against Egypt conducted by foreign organizations, supported by illegal organizations in Egypt, that try to manipulate the event to disseminate their poisons to attack stability in Egypt,” the statement asserted.

“ETUF is stressing that Egyptian workers are fully aware of the plots against their country conducted by foreign or local plotters,” it continued, adding, “We Egyptian workers are one front against any illegal organization’s plots.”

*Photo of Italian solidarity rally for Danf family, courtesy of @Tino

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