The Italian judiciary system is continuing its prosecution of the management of Ilva, the largest steel corporation in Europe, which has its main factory in Taranto. On Monday November 26th the judges ordered seven arrests (4 of which were house arrests) of key managers within the corporation.
The charges range from corruption of a state official to extortion, environmental disaster and conspiracy. Fabio Riva, deputy chairman and son of the founder Emilio, is among the arrested, as is Luigi Capogrosso, the former manager of the factory in Taranto. Arrests were also ordered for Michele Conserva, formerly the person responsible for environmental policy-making in Taranto, Girolamo Archinà, who was working as a liaison between the town administration and Ilva until he was fired, and Lorenzo Liberti, the former head of the Engineering Faculty in Taranto. Mr. Liberti, according to the prosecution, influenced a technical assessment of the impact on public health of the release of dioxin chemicals into the environment, biasing it in favour of Ilva in exchange for a bribe.
Besides the arrests, the judges have also ordered the confiscation of goods produced by Ilva. According to the prosecution, the corporation has not respected the confiscation of the steel hot-metalworking area of the factory that took place this summer.
On the same day, Ilva decided to shut down the cold metalworking area, which was not supposed to be confiscated. As a result, 5000 workers were suddenly left with no work. The intention of the corporation chaired by Riva is clear: to raise the stakes in the clash with the judiciary system and call politicians into action, using its large number of workers as a threat. This act of retaliation is being carried out at the expense of workers already forced to work in a factory poisoned by carcinogens and known for having the highest number of deaths in the workplace across Europe.
In the past few months the Italian national government and several branches of local government increased their efforts to help Ilva escape jutice. The technocrat Monti government has signed a law which specifically applies to this case, as it allows industrial production to continue while awaiting proper response measures for the environmental damage. The regional government of Apulia (where Taranto is located) has awarded the AIA authorisation to the corporation, something which should only be done after assessing the compatibility of a business with the environment. Ironically, the governor of Apulia, Nichi Vendola, is secretary of a party called “Sinistra, Ecologia e Libertà”- “Left, Environmentalism and Freedom”. Over the past few hours, there have been reports that Vendola may have put pressure on local environmental agencies to favour Ilva.
These arrests and this news come the day after the center-left primary elections, in which Vendola represented the more leftist orientation and obtained meagre results.
Meanwhile, central government has asked for a meeting between representatives of the different parties involved in the work stoppage. The meeting should take place next Thursday.
FIOM, the metalworking branch of the CGIL union, has organised a permanent general workers’ assembly inside the factory. Those who had finished the shift were invited to stay, while those that were supposed to start the next shift were invited to come despite the work stoppage. As mentioned, 5000 workers are affected by the stoppage in Taranto. However, the shutdown was also extended to workers in Ilva factories in Genoa, Novi Ligure and Marghera. In total, 7500 workers have been affected, without counting the many more in businesses who deal with or are connected to Ilva.