Aboubakar Soumahoro, Italian-Ivorian unionist | Photo: ANSA/FRANCO CAUTILLO
Aboubakar Soumahoro, Italian-Ivorian unionist | Photo: ANSA/FRANCO CAUTILLO

Undocumented farmworkers employed in Italy's agricultural sector have organized a strike on May 21 against a new decree that will give migrants the chance to apply for a permit, saying the measure was approved only for the market's benefit rather than to promote workers' rights.

Undocumented Italian and foreign workers have organized a strike on May 21 to ''ask for everybody's regularization'', a union representing farmworkers ('Unione sindacale di base (USB) Lavoro Agricolo) has announced. 

The union criticized the 'relaunch decree' approved by the Italian government last Wednesday for providing only ''a very limited opening full of limitations and provisions'' to the regularization of workers ''for the mere benefit of the market rather than to guarantee their right to a life."

USB will be delivering fruit and vegetables to prefectures as part of the protest, as a gift to a government it accuses of ignoring the plight of undocumented workers. 

The appeal launched by Aboubakar Soumahoro 

The strike by migrant farmworkers was first announced last week in a video posted on Facebook by Italian-Ivorian union activist Aboubakar Soumahoro. 

''As a farmhand, I know what it means to work hard for over 12 hours for a mere salary of 20 euros a day. As a farmhand, I have known the bitterness of exploitation. As a farmhand, I have known the loneliness of desperation. I was born an activist and I grew up as a unionist. As a union activist I have promised to my suffering'' and to ''all those farmworkers that we would fight till the end to get rid of the chains of exploitation'', the activist said in the video. 

The relaunch decree, which was approved by the government to restart the Italian economy after the acute phase of the coronavirus emergency, ''contains a measure for the regularization'' of the workforce and ''not for people's health'', stressed Soumahoro.

He criticized the fact that the legalization only concerns specific sectors and excludes others. 

''We oppose the fact that the regularization is reserved to those who have a stay permit that expired after October 31, 2019, effectively excluding the majority of the victims of the security decrees that are still in place." 

"We oppose the fact that a stay permit depends on a job contract because it exposes workers to exploitation, making them vulnerable'', said the unionist. 

For these reasons, ''we farmworkers have decided to go on strike on May 21. That day we will cross our arms because we will not go pick fruits or vegetables''. 

The strike on Thursday, May 21, will include a symbolic march of farmworkers that will start at 9 am in the area of Torretta Antonacci, near Foggia. Protesters will walk through the countryside to reach the prefecture of the southern city of Foggia, where a delegation of workers will deliver fruits and vegetables to government representatives. 

Organizers have also urged Italian consumers not to buy fruit and vegetables on May 21 to express solidarity ''with the request of regularization that comes from an army of invisible (workers) in the Italian countryside and suburbs'', USB Lavoro Agricolo said. 

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