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Protests Over COVID Regulations for Workers Spread to Italy’s Ports

Italian ports hit by strikes over COVID restrictions on workers
Port of Trieste is the center of the current strike over the COVID restrictions (file photo)

Published Oct 15, 2021 7:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

Protests in Italy over the country’s new COVID-19 rules for workers spread on Friday to several of the country’s largest ports. While reports vary on the level of disruption, workers at three of the country’s major ports were reported either on strike or staging protests calling for the government to either pay for mandatory testing or drop the so called “Green Pass” restrictions.

Starting today, October 15, workers across Italy are required to have an electronic pass to work. It is necessary to either be vaccinated against the virus, have recovered from the virus in the past six months, or take frequent COVID-19 tests to confirm negative results for the virus. Any worker failing to meet the requirements faces up to approximately $1,700 in fines.

The Green Pass initially was introduced in June across Italy as a tool to encourage increased vaccination rates. People were required to show the electronic pass to enter restaurants, go to movies, sporting events, and other public venues. Last month, the government approved expanding the requirements to most workplaces. 

Reports on how widespread vaccinations are in Italy vary but it is believed that 86 percent of the population has had at least one injection. However, trade groups such as the truck drivers said that they believed between a quarter and a third of truck drivers remained unvaccinated for COVID-19.  Across the country, it has been estimated three million workers might be unvaccinated.

Dockworkers in the port of Trieste announced they were going on strike unless the government delayed the Green Pass requirements. Port officials said that they believed possibly 400 of the nearly 1,000 port workers are currently not vaccinated for the virus. 

Estimates on the number of port employees in Trieste that went on strike varied widely. Some outlets are reporting as low as a few hundred strikers at the gate to the port, while the British BBC said 2,000 and some Italian outlets put the total demonstration at 4,000 or 5,000 people. Some reports said that the port was “paralyzed by strikes.”

 

 

The Governor for the region in northwest Italy, Massimiliano Fedriga, who has an election this weekend, however, issued a statement contending that operations were proceeding normally at the port of Trieste. Similarly, there were reports that the commercial port at Venice, Naples, and Palermo were all operating normally.

At the port of Ancona in eastern Italy on the Adriatic port workers reportedly staged a sit-in blocking all traffic from entering the port. In northwest Italy at Genoa 300 workers reportedly blocked major access points into the port. Truck drivers complained of long delays and there were scenes of long backup of traffic in Genoa.

Another unresolved issue under the new regulations concerns the large number of foreign truck drivers who service the ports and transport shipments across the country’s borders. A spokesperson for Italy’s logistics association said they feared 30 to 40 percent of drivers might not show up for work.

 

 

The labor actions were not limited to Italy’s ports. Workers at major manufacturing companies, including Electrolux, also staged strikes, In Rome, the police were repeatedly called out as protestors attempted to block traffic in different parts of the city.

A spokesperson for the dockworkers union appearing on Italian television said that people are still struggling In Italy which had one of the worst outbreaks of the virus in 2020 is still working to recover from the economic damage caused by the long lockdowns and ongoing restrictions. They called the new regulations the strictest in Europe and said they were willing to stop the economy to get their message to the Italian government.