Hospital workers fight police in Milan

Hospital workers fight police in Milan

Healthcare workers at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan protest after receiving the first 40 letters of redundancy. After a general assembly, the struggling workers occupied the hospital reception and the roof of the building, prompting the heavy-handed response by police.

It has been a week of renewed struggle at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital, with mass meetings, rooftop occupations, demonstrations and fights with the police.

After months of calm since the last round of protests at the end of 2012, Monday 15th April saw the first 40 (of 244) redundancy letters sent out, and with it a new round of struggle. Workers called a general assembly and decided to occupy the hospital reception, blocking all 32 payment counters. After this, the workers held a demonstration out on the street in front of the hospital, occupying a roundabout on a major ring road and blocking traffic.

The next morning saw more protests as at least 80 workers again tried to occupy the hospital reception. This time they were met with police aggression and, in the scuffles that followed, three workers were hurt. Following these protests, around thirteen workers then climbed up onto the roof of the hospital, calling for the regional government to reopen the discussions with the unions and stop the redundancies, eventually only coming down at around 7pm.

However, Friday 19th saw the heaviest fighting yet, when 300 workers, after a general assembly and demonstration around the hospital, attempted once more to occupy the reception area. Once again they were met by police, this time in riot gear. In the scuffles which ensued, one nurse was hurt, having been knocked down, hitting her head on the floor and needed to be taken to Accident and Emergency.

Eventually, however, the workers overcame the police, some pushing their way past, others getting in through a side door. With the reception occupied and all 32 payment counters blocked once more, the workers broke into chants of “Via, via, la polizia” (rough translation: “police, go away!”). The reception would be occupied until about 2pm.

The struggle at San Raffaele has been organised by the workers themselves, mostly members of the base union USB and the anarcho-syndicalist USI-AIT. The major unions (CGIL, CISL and UIL) have had little influence on the struggle, arguing that, rather than scrapping the cuts entirely, the unions should be allowed to decide which cuts to make. Indeed, Friday’s protest saw an attempted intervention by a CGIL full-timer interrupted by workers.

Meanwhile, workers complain of heavy-handed policing against workers. Angelo Mulè, delegate from USI-AIT, stated that San Raffaele is becoming a “militarised hospital”.

“It’s enough for a little group of (workers) to get near the reception area and (the police) spring into action with blockades and there are moments of tension,” he explained.

More protests have been called for Monday 22nd and the base unions have called for a strike throughout the healthcare system – both public and private – across the region of Lombardy.

Sources and previous coverage available here

Posted By

Apr 21 2013 17:07


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Apr 21 2013 21:14

Posted this on the other news story but might as well stick them in here as well.. first scuffles outside the hospital..

And this video, which I reckon is better.. demonstration at the hospital (with loads of USI-AIT flags), a bit of push-and-shove with the police ending in workers taking the reception area and chanting "Police go away!".. classic..

Apr 22 2013 07:41

Hmm. I don't know if you know the answer to this but a while ago there was news on the USI page that the hospital had resigned from the idea of redundancies and was trying to get people to accept pay cuts and new contracts instead. Any idea of what happened? Was it that the unions didn't accept this so they went ahead with the redundancies?

In any case, power to them in their struggle.

Apr 22 2013 08:39

Right, yeah, there was a bit of confusion over this because (if I remember right) management put out a statement saying that USI and USB delegates had agreed to their offer, which they hadn't.. they'd agreed to take the offer to a general assembly of all workers.

USI posted this flyer on their website (and I'm guessing handed it out around the hospital, stuck it on noticeboards etc).. the gist of it is that they went into negotiations with a mandate from the general assembly to accept temporary pay cuts with a guarantee of maintaining jobs and conditions. However, the offer from management fell short in the following ways:
1. There was no guarantee about the temporary nature of the pay cuts
2. There was no guarantee that the cuts at San Raffaele would undermine only those at the hospital, and wouldn't end up on the national contract agreements for all health workers
3. There was no guarantee that the hospital wouldn't use other methods for getting rid of people, like outsourcing..

Now, considering that it's been established that it was financial mismanagement and corruption that led the hospital to bankruptcy (one wealthy businessmen got ten years in prison for his part), the workers are being super-reasonable in accepting temporary pay cuts.. but it's obvious that the new management are looking to use this situation as an opportunity to cut pay and conditions permanently..

So yeah, good luck to the workers at San Raffaelel! smile

Apr 22 2013 14:07

Update from this morning:
After another general assembly, between 250-300 workers (according to the mainstream media) reoccupied the reception area, blocking the payment counters again. Reports (from Italian media) here and here.

Some photos from today here.

More protests planned for tomorrow and Wednesday.. will try and get more info as it happens..

Apr 22 2013 21:57

Video from today:

Apr 24 2013 07:35

Weird day yesterday.. started bad, with disciplinary letters sent out to workers who'd participated in recent assemblies not authorised by the hospital (plus more redundancy letters sent out).. however, things look like they might be moving forward as the Regional government have approved a motion to reopen negotiations between RSU (a kind of unitary union committee elected by workers, in the case of San Raffaele USI-AIT and USB have a clear majority) and management.. will see how it goes, especially with the planned general healthcare workers' strike planned for two weeks time..

May 1 2013 10:02

Okay, so yesterday there was a student demonstration at the hospital (around 1,200 people according to the papers), skim reading it seems mostly student nurses, technicians etc.. article here (in Italian)..

Pic of the demo (sign says "Like this you'll kill our future):

Another pic of a student assembly:

More pictures here (can't embed, news bastards)..