As in most other parts of the European Union, 2012 in Italy was a year in which austerity policies marked the political climate of the country. The actions of the Monti government – in direct continuation of those of the Berlusconi government – struck implacably on various fronts, hitting the workers' rights and safeguards (with a freeze on bargaining in the public sector and the liberalization of layoffs in the private sector), cutting social spending for education and healthcare in an attempt to reduce the deficit, with the consequent impoverishment of the working classes and a collapse in internal demand and consumption (-4.8% compared to 2011). [Italiano]
As in most other parts of the European Union, 2012 in Italy was a year in which austerity policies marked the political climate of the country.
The actions of the Monti government – in direct continuation of those of the Berlusconi government – struck implacably on various fronts, hitting the workers' rights and safeguards (with a freeze on bargaining in the public sector and the liberalization of layoffs in the private sector), cutting social spending for education and healthcare in an attempt to reduce the deficit, with the consequent impoverishment of the working classes and a collapse in internal demand and consumption (-4.8% compared to 2011).
Serious undervaluation of the recessive effect of cutting public spending led to a drastic reduction in GDP for 2012 (-2.4%).
The public debt-to-GDP ratio went from 120% in 2011 to 126% in 2012. The causes for this lay in high interest rates, in the approval of the “Fiscal Compact” signed by Berlusconi and ratified by Monti, and in the drop in income. The deficit-to-GDP ratio lies at around 3% for 2012, but the Monti government was aiming for nothing less than 0.5%!!!
The tax burden shot up from 42.5% in 2011 to 44.7% in 2012. The huge increases in taxes were responsible for an increase in revenue for the State to the tune of 4%. However, the collapse in consumption served to lower income from VAT by 2%, notwithstanding the VAT increase from 20 to 21%, resulting in a loss of €1.7 billion.
Wages showed a certain downward “rigidity”. Hourly contractual pay rose only by 1.4% on an annual level, making it thus lower than the rate of inflation by 1.8%! Monti decided to block the bargaining process for the public sector until 2014, contributing in no little way to the brake on consumption and stagnation in production. And with the “Productivity Agreement” signed with certain trade unions, the automatic nature of pay increases that was in place so far has been lost and only a minority will be able to protect their purchasing power if they work in a company that's doing well, and only this minority will have fewer taxes on their wages.
Italian families were once well known for their ability to save, but their savings have been eroded by 64%. Average indebtedness of families is now over €20,000. People are selling their gold in ordr to get through the crisis: in the past two years, 2.5 million families have sold gold or other precious objects.
The State is providing Italy's regional, provincial and town governments with much less funding – almost €8.3 billion in 3 years. For citizens, this means fewer services and more local taxes. In 2012, tax-payers paid €3.5 million to their local town councils and regional governments, without receiving adequate social services in return.
The industrial decline of the country can be felt in the drop in turnover (-4% on 2011), in production (-5.2%), in public and private investment (-7.2%), and in investment in machinery and equipment (-10.6%).
There are 160 industrial crises in progress with the risk of the loss of 300,000 more jobs, not including the 124,700 already lost. In 2012 it is estimated that 510,000 workers entered the temporary redundancy system (CIG), for a total of 1 billion hours. (The CIG system ensures that workers receive (reduced) pay for the hours or days they are laid off, up to a maximum of a year.)
Unemployment has risen to 10.8%. Pay drops have not brought more jobs – if anything the opposite is true. Mass unemployment has actively been sought by the government in order to force workers to bow to greater exploitation. We are looking at an army of around 3,000,000 unemployed. The rate of youth unemployment is fearsome, too, standing at 36.5%! And 50% of the entire workforce are on temporary contracts.
The notorious spread has dropped to below 300 base points, but certainly not because of the Monti government (indeed it rose every time new austerity measures were announced). Rather, it is a result of the ECB’s friendly monetary policy towards the banks. In the meantime, foreign investors are abandoning Italian bonds in droves – almost €1 billion in shares less compared to 2010).
The austerity policies have also struck spending on environmental protection, though not on devastating works such as the rapid train line known as the TAV. Military spending is also increasing: from €19,962 million in 2012 to €20,935 in 2013.
In this situation, resistance to the policies of the government and the bosses has been seen above all in 2 particularly important movements: the No TAV movement in the Piedmont region against the construction of the high-speed rail link which will devastate an entire valley – a movement which has suffered very heavy repression, and the labour movement against the classist policies that damage workers in both the private and public sectors. FdCA members have been very active within the CGIL in order to promote the involvement of workers in the bargaining process and in the struggle against austerity policies, and in particular supporting the actions of the FIOM, the metalworkers’ union, in its opposition to the Monti government. We have also been active within various grassroots unions (Confederazione Cobas, Unicobas, USB, USI) against the austerity measures in various mobilizations. The FdCA promotes action by its union members within their workplaces and particular categories, placing class unity before the importance of any particular union.
In this crisis-ridden 2012, the FdCA carried on a great deal of work in defence of the commons, for the development of collective property, of ethical purchasing, alternative economies and mutual aid, in order to promote the growth of libertarian alternatives that are practical and can be extended throughout the community.
The defeats suffered by the labour movement are currently the subject of deep reflection within the FdCA, but it is clear that with the rapid increase of the use of casual labour, it is essential that divisions amongst categories be overcome in order to rebuild class unity and new values of solidarity both throughout communities and in the camere del lavoro.
17 January 2012