Late in the evening on Thursday, Adil Belakhdim had sent a voice message to invite workers to the protest in Biandrate, in the province of Novara, in front of the Lidl distribution center, one of the initiatives as part of the national logistics strike declared by a number of large unions—including Si Cobas, Adil’s union—against “the fascist-gang-style aggressions,” “the system of subcontracting” and “the green light for layoffs.”
But on Friday morning, Adil lost his life, run over by a truck that forced the picket line in front of the plant in Via Guido il Grande.
Originally from Morocco, he was 37 years old, and left behind a wife, Lucia, and two children aged 6 and 4. He lived in Vizzolo Predabissi (Milan) and was the coordinator of the Novara branch of Si Cobas and a member of the national coordination team. He was generous and relentless in his fight against injustice: “He had felt that he was being exploited at work,” says Fulvio Di Giorgio, a friend and fellow trade unionist, “so he understood that something had to be done. Not only for himself, but for all the others as well. That’s where his dedication to the union began, in 2013.”
He was on the frontlines in the struggle of the delivery workers, a world he knew well, having worked for several years at the TNT facility in Peschiera Borromeo. It is a Wild West in terms of workers’ rights, which is experiencing an escalation of tensions and violence. And Adil gave his life in the struggle. The driver who ran him over and dragged his body for twenty meters before fleeing the scene is 25 years old and from Caserta. He was arrested on charges of vehicular homicide, resisting arrest and hit-and-run, apprehended by a Carabinieri crew at the Novara Ovest exit on the A4 freeway.
According to the reconstruction of the investigators, during the picket of the workers, the truck driver was queuing behind other vehicles inside the distribution center, but, driven impatient by the wait, he suddenly turned against traffic onto the entrance lane and accelerated, despite the fact that the protesters were in front of the vehicle. He turned right to reach the road, first hitting two workers, who managed to save themselves and were hospitalized with injuries, then running over Adil Belakhdim and fleeing the scene in the truck.
Despite immediate medical assistance, nothing could be done to save the trade unionist. “We are still in disbelief and shock,” commented the national Si Cobas organization, “but we cannot keep our anger quiet at a tragedy that cannot in any way be written off as a simple accident, nor as the deed of a lone madman.”
The murder of Adil is the culmination of an escalation of organized violence against the Si Cobas, which has been building for months and has now crossed all limits. The police charges at FedEx TNT in Piacenza, the arrests, the firings and the fines against the strikes, the armed assaults by bodyguards and scabs in San Giuliano and Lodi, and also the punitive raids at Texprint on Thursday, are all part of a unified plan in which company bosses are working together with organized crime (which does huge business in logistics), acting in a united and collaborative manner to crush with force and violence the strikes of the workers against hyper-exploitation and in defense of the achievements wrested over the years by the struggle of the trade unions. Adil’s death makes even more evident what was already clear in light of the exponential growth of deaths at the workplace recorded during these months of pandemic crisis: for the bosses, profits are worth more than human life.”
The story of Belakhdim brings to mind another tragedy that happened five years ago in Piacenza, where, in September 2016, Abd Elsalam Ahmed Eldanf, a 53-year-old delivery worker, was run over by a truck outside the GLS facility, while a labor dispute between the Usb union and the company’s top management was ongoing. It was an episode that saw major controversy, because according to the prosecutor’s office it was nothing more than an accident, while the union denounced it as “murder by employer.” Last week, in Tavazzano (Lodi), at the protest organized by Si Cobas in Zampieri, vigilantes threw long pieces of wood made from broken pallets and attacked with sticks the TNT Fedex Piacenza workers (a hub closed by the multinational). And just a few days ago, in Prato, there was an attack with bricks against the picket line that was protesting the working conditions at the Texprint printing plant.
These are all stories with workers as protagonists: exploited, poorly paid, many of them foreigners. As Pape Ndiaye of Si Cobas Milan said on Friday in Biandrate: “There is a regime of total exploitation, in places where you enter and don’t know when you’ll be able to leave. Lidl has not responded to our requests. Logistics is a sector that, on the national level, has been abandoned by the state and is ruled by the blackmail of the bosses.” Another issue of concern is “the liberalization of subcontracting” contained in the Simplification Decree.
The tertiary sector branches of Cgil, Cisl and Uil have declared three days of strike, from Friday to Sunday, for the workers at the Biandrate site: “It is inconceivable to be killed while exercising the constitutional right to express one’s opinion, and one must never set workers against workers.” Solidarity demonstrations have been held from Turin to Palermo.
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