C. The Events of Rome - 09. Some Facts about Rome

Submitted by Steven. on August 14, 2009

Capital of Italy. Population something over 3 million. Centre of the Papacy. For the last 2,000 years (Roman Empire, Papacy and now as the capital of Italy) has produced very little wealth, but consumes a lot.

Majority of workers employed by the State and para-State organisations, bureaucratic and over-inflated. Public servants cannot be sacked (by law),
and work 8.00am to 2.00pm Monday to Saturday: many try to get second jobs in the afternoon to supplement meagre pay.

The city's population is also swollen by large numbers of immigrants from the South, living in "dormitory suburbs” (very few facilities) and living (thousands of them) in shanty towns, while building speculators (the Vatican's men are prominent} keep thousands of flats empty, to raise prices. Many of the homeless have organised mass squats, but these often lead to pitched battles with the police (as San Basilio in 1974).

Some factories around the outskirts: their workers do have political weight. But none employ more than 3,000. Most people not employed in the public sector work in the building industry (declining slightly) and service industries. Also, 18,000 employed by the University - the biggest single employer in Rome and the largest University in the world (200,000 students).

Italian students, if of poor parents and out-of-town, can get a £330 pa grant. In Rome some live in halls of residence, but most have to hunt for rooms, up to £50 per month per room. The University teaches very little. Rather it sets many exams and tests, leading perhaps to a degree. A degree is no guarantee of a job, as the unemployment stands at present.

In Italy a crucial fact is that jobs are scarce - and are divided into two types - “guaranteed” and "non-guaranteed". The “guaranteed" job is either a State job (as above) or with a large company, perhaps as a factory worker. Such jobs earn about £200 a month, and carry 1 month's paid holiday, medical insurance, pension rights, double wages in December and sometimes in July (known as the 13th and 14th months). There are laws enforcing all these conditions, and also strictly covering the conditions in which you can be sacked: a victory of workers struggles over the years.

"Non-guaranteed" jobs are those in small workplaces, non-industrial units, home-workers etc etc, where the Trade Unions have not bothered to organise. Wages and conditions are terrible (eg a lawyer's receptionist gets £10 per 40-hour week). This situation gets worse as you go further South.

Many students, on low grants, are forced to take "non-guaranteed" jobs (not being able to work full-time). They exist in precarious jobs, competing for jobs with others equally desperate.

The Movement that we describe in this pamphlet is clearly centred on this student body, and on the non-guaranteed workers, who found in the University mass meetings (especially when the University was occupied in Rome) a rallying point to which they could flock, to escape their isolation and fragmentation. Interestingly, among those who identify with the Movement are also small but significant numbers of workers from the State sector, like teachers, hospital workers, local government workers and even bank workers (who have a 200-strong revolutionary collective in Rome alone). This is probably because these sectors do not have a very long Trade Union history behind them, and they are feeling the effects of increasing mechanisation, fragmentation, alienation etc, as service sector jobs are increasingly being rationalised.