Report. Sergio Mattarella: 'You can’t evade vaccination in the name of freedom, as if it was a license to endanger the health and life of others.'

Italy will expand vaccine passes, but unions disagree about mandates

The Italian government aims to expand the Green Pass, which serves as proof of vaccination, previous infection or a recent COVID test, as early as this week, while the unions are calling for mandatory vaccination or, at the very least, that the companies should pay for the tests for workers who haven’t obtained the pass themselves.

After President Mattarella’s speech on vaccination—“You can’t evade vaccination in the name of freedom, as if it was a license to endanger the health and life of others”—the political road is open: by the end of the week, the Council of Ministers is expected to pass a new decree extending the requirement for the Green Pass—which came into effect on August 6 for accessing restaurants, bars and cinemas—to public workers and transport workers as well, starting from October.

“Those who wish to not get vaccinated—with the exception of those who are unable to do so—and still live a normal life, going into shared spaces of work, education and leisure, are actually forcing all the others to limit their freedom, to give up the prospect of normality in daily life,” Mattarella argued on Sunday.

Afterwards came the Draghi government’s proposed solution: “I think it is reasonable and common sense to extend the Green Pass requirement to employees and workers in places where the pass is already required for users and customers: for instance, bars, restaurants, means of transport,” said the centrist Undersecretary for Health Andrea Costa on Monday, the only government representative who gave a statement during the day.

It is a middle-ground solution that Draghi supports in order to avoid having too many problems with Salvini, who is against mandatory vaccination.

On Monday, union and industry leaders met again after several months. At the headquarters in Viale dell’Astronomia in Rome, the leaders of Confindustria met with the general secretaries of CGIL, CISL and UIL. The skirmishes of recent weeks finally came to a head: on one side, Bonomi wanted to merely require the Green Pass in all workplaces, while on the other, Landini, Sbarra and Bombardieri called for mandatory vaccination in order to avoid discrimination for workers without the Green Pass, starting from the company canteens.

On his way to the meeting—which changed venue at the last moment—the UIL secretary, Pierpaolo Bombardieri, explained the position of the unions: “President Bonomi has invited us to meet after insulting us all summer,” Bombardieri pointed out.

“It is an opportunity to talk again, and we will go to explain our ideas with great determination, explaining to the president of Confindustria that we are neither irresponsible nor playing the part of Pontius Pilate, but we’re doing our job, which is to protect all workers. We will tell Bonomi that if he wants to use the Green Pass in the workplaces, the companies must bear the costs of the tests, and they must not fire anyone, even those who don’t get tested on their own,” said Bombardieri. “No one has ever heard of workers having to bear the costs when it comes to workplace safety.”

A possible middle ground was proposed by CISL, which seems to have already been implemented among the small businesses represented by Confapi, led by Maurizio Casasco (who wears many hats, as he is also head of the Italian Federation of Sports Physicians): the cost of swabs for workers at these companies that don’t have the Green Pass should be paid from the bilateral funds, thus borne jointly by the companies and workers.

However, Confapi has broken the united front of the industry leaders, going in a very different direction than Bonomi and Confindustria: in a statement, it said it “hopes that, in light of recent statements by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the government will soon take decisions in the direction of mandatory vaccination.” In short, they want to go with Draghi and against Bonomi.

Vaccinations are already mandatory for health personnel. On Monday, the new school year officially started in the province of Bolzano: a major test, because—with the Green Pass being mandatory for all teaching staff—in-person teaching has now begun in the area of Italy with the lowest vaccination rate (which many wrongly believe would be found in the South). About 50 teachers (from kindergartens to high schools) have refused the pass, and, unless any of them reconsider at the last minute, the first suspensions are set to arrive on Tuesday.

For the moment, at least, there have been no critical issues. In South Tyrol, only 88% of teachers have received at least one dose and 82% are fully immunized, according to the latest data from the province of Bolzano. These figures are clearly up from two weeks ago, even though South Tyrol is still at the bottom of the list.

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