Gig Economy Project – Italian taxi wildcat strike ends after Prime Minister offers his resignation

A spontaneous strike of taxi drivers across Italy following the Uber Files revelations has stopped after the Italian Prime Minister offered his resignation, one of the key demands of the drivers who are opposed to a Bill backed by Draghi which could liberalise the sector

Picture from @RadioGenova Twitter

ITALIAN taxi unions have said a remarkable wildcat strike which spread across the country and saw big protests and drivers chained to the offices of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has now ended, after Draghi offered his resignation last night [14 July].

The taxi drivers, who have been opposing for weeks Article 10 of the Competition Bill backed by the Italian Government which would liberalise the private hire transport sector in the country, stepped up their actions following the Uber Files revelations, spontaneously organising stoppages since Tuesday which completely shutdown taxi operations in many cities and at airports. 

Unions announced that the workers would resume work after Draghi announced his resignation on Thursday, a move which the taxi drivers had been demanding. Official trade union strike dates are still scheduled for 20 and 21 July, the last official strikes taking place on the 5-6 July.

Draghi’s resignation offer came after the Five Star Movement pulled its support for the ‘national unity’ government’s economic reforms, with its leader and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte saying that Draghi was not doing enough to tackle the cost of living crisis. Draghi’s resignation was rejected by President Sergio Mattarella, who told the former head of the European Central Bank to instead go back to parliament and try to muster a new coalition.

‘Il Tempo’ reported a “real spontaneous assembly” of drivers in Rome assembled around the five drivers who had chained themselves to Draghi’s office at the Chigi Palace. Drivers from Naples travelling to the Italian capital to link arms with their colleagues shutdown Piazza del Plebiscito in the centre of the city, chanting “Fuck Uber, the EU and Mario Draghi”. Protests were also taking place in other Italian cities including Milan, Turin, Naples and Florence. There were clashes with Italian police which had sought to keep the taxi drivers away from government buildings.

“We have to stay here,” one driver in the Palazzo Chigi was quoted as saying, ”all eyes of the country are on us”. 

“We maintain the state of agitation. We do not cause everything to lead to the chaos of violence, but we remain to garrison Rome until we are listened to properly,” another driver said.

“The dignity of our work risks disappearing in the hands of multinationals,” stated Nicola Di Giacobbe of the taxi union Unica CGIL Taxi, who was one of those chained to Draghi’s office.

In Turin, where the whole taxi service was shutdown, taxi drivers occupied Piazza Vittorio Veneto, with one driver, Ermanno Disabato, telling ‘La Stampa’ that: “There was no time to waste, so we organised ourselves independently.” The newspaper reports that the strike even caught the taxi unions off-guard.

“This protest is carried out…outside the union, it was born without respecting the rules but one cannot fail to sympathise with these people who see their profession increasingly under attack,” Massimo Zappaterra, a Federtaxi union representative, told La Stampa. “We do not sponsor these actions, which are in fact illegal, but on a human level it is understandable.”

The Prime Minister had been adamant that all aspects of the Competition Bill would pass as he claimed it was a necessary step for Italy to access EU pandemic recovery funds, which are contingent on member-state’s meeting a set of criteria laid down by the unelected European Commission. The Commission has pushed for a liberalisation of industry sector’s in Italy, including in transport.

Uber does currently exist in Italy, but it operates on a limited basis only in the largest cities and its Uber Black service was banned in 2017. In May, the company signed a deal to integrate its app with Italy’s largest taxi company, IT Taxi, which see Uber become available in 80 towns and cities. 

The two most controversial passages of Article 10 of the Competition Bill state that the Bill will ensure “the adaptation of the offer of services to the forms of mobility that are carried out through web applications that use technological platforms for the interconnection of passengers and drivers”, and “the promotion of competition, also in the granting of licenses, in order to stimulate higher quality standards”. 

The status of the Competition Bill is now unclear due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of the government, and whether Draghi will remain as prime minister. 

Following Draghi’s resignation offer, a press release by a coalition of taxi unions stated: “In light of the resignation presented by Prime Minister Mario Draghi to President Mattarella and later rejected by him, parliamentary activity…is suspended. 

“It being understood that, to date, the strike remains fixed for the days 20 and 21 July, we will remain vigilant on developments in parliamentary activity, with particular reference to the Competition Bill. Therefore we suspend the garrison at Palazzo Chigi.

“We thank the taxi drivers who supported us in this effort, and who as a sign of solidarity with their colleagues still engaged in the same, have spontaneously suspended the service, we now deem it necessary to restart work.”

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