Analysis. Unions: ‘If we need to invest in the future of young people, we must offer them the possibility of a dignified and safe job.’

A young woman’s workplace death shakes Italy, with strikes set for Friday

Perhaps Luana’s death struck a chord because she was just 23 years old and the mother of a 5-year-old boy. Or because her youthful looks had led her to an appearance in the film Se son rose by Leonardo Pieraccioni. Or because a recent photo of her together with her colleagues and the owner of the Luana di Oste di Montemurlo textile works, all of them smiling and almost embracing—a symbol of a shared vision, not only in terms of production but of life and the dignity of work—has not lost its beauty even after the tragedy happened.

The death of Luana D’Orazio, who was crushed by the gears of a warper machine, has certainly awakened many consciences—including those of the industrial associations.

The labor and constitutional affairs committees of the Senate commemorated her at the beginning of their session, urging the single-chamber commission of inquiry to begin its examination into working conditions in the country, approved unanimously more than a year ago by the Senate. And the confederal unions of Prato, the third largest city in central Italy and a historical industrial center of the peninsula, have called for a four-hour strike on Friday, with a rally in Piazza delle Carceri.

“Prior to Luana, a worker in his early 20s similarly died crushed by a machine in a textile company in Montale,” said CGIL, CISL and UIL in a statement. “And if we need to invest in the future of young people, we must offer them the possibility of a dignified and safe job.”

The mayor of Prato, Matteo Biffoni, did not forget to commemorate, together with Luana, the other young victim, Jaballah Sabri. Sabri was born in Tunisia but soon became integrated in Prato—as has always happens in a dynamic and pragmatic city that has grown steadily to 200,000 inhabitants—who was crushed on February 2 by an automatic bale separator machine that he was cleaning.

And even with the immense pain of the moment, Luana’s mother, Emma Marrazzo, had words of comfort for the owner of the company where her daughter died: “She doesn’t know what happened, she also works on the machines, she’s not one to sit around, she gets work done. Just yesterday, she had hired a kid to work near my daughter, to give her a hand. She called me, the poor thing, she is devastated.”

The prosecutor Giuseppe Nicolosi, an accomplished DA who has worked side by side with Gabriele Chelazzi to reconstruct the events of the mafia-related and other massacres of 1992-93, explained that Luana Cappellini, the owner of the company, would almost inevitably be entered into the register of suspects to be investigated.

“We are trying to understand if something in the machine didn’t work, and what—including the safety sensor,” he said. “We have received the results of the examination, and in the next few hours we will appoint experts to examine the documentation collected by the judicial police. Soon, we hope to be able to perform the autopsy on the body of the girl, for which we have already been granted a mandate.”

The investigations, which will be entrusted to the experts from the department of accident prevention of the Toscana Centro local health branch, will have to establish how such a tragedy could happen, given that technological improvements had finally led to a drastic reduction of the number of workplace accidents connected to the process of warping, including fatal ones, which had been very frequent in the last century.

Meanwhile, however, the USB union is pointedly recalling a fact of considerable importance, in a country where there are hundreds of victims of workplace deaths every year: “This is workplace homicide, but it is not considered a crime in our legal system. The Italian state has taken care to introduce the crime of road homicide, and rightly so. But it is avoiding debating the proposed laws, which are already there in Parliament, to introduce a similar measure for the killings that occur daily in the workplace.”

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