Davide Di Gioia had just turned 24 on Sunday. He died at his workplace on Monday, after plummeting 15 meters from the roof of a shed in Capurso, in the province of Bari. He had an apprenticeship contract with Industrie Fracchiolla, a company that produces containers for the food and pharmaceutical industry in Adelfia and Valenzano. The provincial secretary of the FIOM CGIL union, Saverio Gramegna, claims that the young man had been performing tasks “which most likely had nothing to do with the terms of his apprenticeship contract.”
This is the story of one tragedy—however, in just the first 30 days of 2019, there have been 45 others like it. That is the number of people who have died at their workplace in Italy this year—a number which doesn’t include the many other workers who died on the streets and in traffic on their way to a work site, as Carlo Soricelli pointed out on his blog, which tracks workplace deaths in Italy.
On Tuesday, the National Institute for Insurance against Workplace Accidents (INAIL) announced the official statistics for 2018: no less than 1,133 workers dead, an increase of 10.1 percent—an extra 104 victims—compared to the 1,029 recorded in 2017. The total number of workplace accidents reported between January and December was 641,000, up 0.9 percent compared to 2017.
The analysis shows that the increase in fatalities compared to 2017 was made up of a disproportional increase in the number of deaths while in transit to the workplace (+22.6 percent), compared to a still-significant increase in deaths at the work site (+5.4 percent). The most affected areas were the northwest of Italy (a year-to-year increase of 47 fatalities) and the south (+35 dead). The region most affected was Campania (+27 dead), while Abruzzo was the region with the most significant decrease in the number of fatalities (from 54 to 25).
The month with the most tragedies was August 2018, which left 132 workers dead. This was the month when the Morandi bridge collapsed in Genoa, adding 15 to the total of workplace fatalities. In the Puglia region, there were two road accidents, at Lesina and Foggia, which between them claimed the lives of 16 workers. The number of reported workplace accidents also rose year-to-year in most regions, particularly in Italy’s northwestern (+1.1 percent), northeastern (+2.2 percent) and southern regions (+0.8 percent)—while lower numbers were recorded in central Italy (-0.8 percent) and in the islands (-1.0 percent). The largest increases in workplace accidents were reported in the regions of Bolzano, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Molise.
“We are faced with a problem that has been left without solution,” said the CGIL labor union. They are calling for a reform of the system: changing the role of INAIL from an institution exclusively acting as insurer to a pillar of an integrated health and safety system, better coordination among the local health authorities at the regional level and the National Labor Inspectorate, and the establishment of a uniform system for workplace safety education on the whole Italian territory.
The CISL union is asking for a national debate to be held at INAIL on the provisions of the national agreement on health and safety issues in the workplace signed by all the major unions in December, with the goal of updating the so-called “Factory Pact” which regulates insurance and workplace safety issues. Likewise, the UIL union has demanded that workplace safety be made into a serious point of contention with businesses and the government
During question time in the Chamber of Deputies, the Labor Minister, Luigi Di Maio, declared himself “proud” of cutting the INAIL insurance rates in the 2019 budget law, “because they had been calculated using the number of workplace fatalities in 1995 and had never been updated: this is not a matter of taking away money from those who are entitled to compensation, but of applying a just level of taxes to entrepreneurs.”
Di Maio pointed out that the support fund for the families of victims of serious workplace accidents has been increased from €3.4 million to €4.4 million, while the number of employees of the National Labor Inspectorate has been increased by 930 inspectors and 20 managers.
However, Di Maio’s boasts failed to address the criticism from the opposition, which highlighted the problematic fact that the increase in workplace fatalities is being accompanied by a cut of €200 million per year from the funds allocated to workplace security training.
“We need a serious rethinking,” said former Minister of Labor Damiano (PD). “Di Maio should reverse the funding cut as soon as possible, or, if not, he shouldn’t ever dare to come and talk to us about the dignity of work,” was the pointed statement by Chiara Grubaudo (PD). “The government should pass serious changes to the ‘Competition Decree’ [a law containing provisions on workplace safety], or it should have the decency to shut up when we are dealing with three victims of workplace accidents per day,” said Stefano Fassina (LeU).