Striking Distance: Italian Protests Turn “Virtual”

That Italians are frequently mad as heck and not going to take it any more is evident to anyone who has been surprised by a bus, train, or airline strike in the Bel Paese.

Compared to US counterparts, who strike for about 40 days a year, Italians cross their arms in protest about 100 days a year, or 150% more, according to European Union and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures.

Recently, the number of transport strikes in Italy has exploded (as I found out when supermarket shelves emptied), up to 1,000 a year in 2007-2008.

As part of an omnibus bill crawling its way through the Italian parliament, strikers would be forced to protest “virtually” to guarantee basic public services. They stay on the job but workers would be docked the day’s pay. The company must match that wage; both sums go into a worker’s comp fund.

Virtual strikes would help avoid the paralysis of wildcat strikes, called “savage” strikes or scioperi selvaggi in Italian.

If Italians are willing to strike for spaghetti — and even models will strike a pose for better rights — are they ready to take what was in the streets virtual?

UPDATE: The Italian cabinet unanimously approved the draft law greenlighting the notion of ‘virtual’ strikes.

Image used with a CC license, thanks to rete studenti massa.