Skip to main content

New immigrant struggles in Italy’s logistics industry

Abstract

The wave of strikes in the logistics sector since 2008 is by far the most important struggle that has developed in Italy in the wake of the global economic crisis. In this article we reflect on its potential for the renewal of the labour movement. We ground our discussion in an analysis of global production transformations and migration as a factor of working class re-composition. We show that in Italy the crisis is determining an acute process of deindustrialisation, while austerity and harshening immigration restrictions are reinforcing the deregulation and racialisation of employment relation. Deindustrialisation, however, is matched by the growth of the logistics sector and its reorganisation along the lines of Just-in-Time production, which actually strengthens workers’ bargaining power at the point of production. After describing working conditions in the sector, we present the main characteristics of logistics struggles. The mainly immigrant logistics workers have been able to exercise their power through blockades and strikes, obtaining improved agreements with some of the main logistics companies. In a context of increasingly generalised precarity, these struggles can inspire workers in other sectors and promote a process of international class re-composition.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Allen, W.B. (1997) The logistics revolution and transportation. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 553: 106–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Amoore, L. (2006) Invisible subject(s): work and workers in the global political economy. In: M. Davies & M. Ryner (eds.) Poverty and the Production of World Politics. Palgrave-Macmillan: Basingstoke, pp. 14–37.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  3. AngryWorkersWorld (2015) Ditching the fear! Warehouse workers struggles in Italy and their wider significance. 12 July, https://angryworkersworld.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/ditching-the-fear-warehouse-workers-struggles-in-italy-and-their-wider-significance/ [accessed 10 November 2015].

  4. Appetecchia, A. (2014) Evoluzione del modello logistico italiano. Il lavoro nei trasporti—Mensile di informazione, cultura e documentazione, 2: 2–3.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Arci, CGIL, Libera (2014) Occorre che la rabbia e le legittime rivendicazioni rimangano all’interno del conflitto democratico. 2 February, http://www.cgilbo.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/565 [accessed 10 November 2015].

  6. Ashton, B. (2006) Logistics and the factory without walls. Mute. 14 September, http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/logistics-and-factory-without-walls. Accessed Nov 10, 2015.

  7. Bailey, D.J., Clua-Losada, M., Huke, N., Rimera Almandoz, O. and Rogers, K. (2016) Challenging the age of austerity: Disruptive agency after the global economic crisis. Comparative European Politics. doi:10.1057/s41295-016-0072-8.

  8. Basso, P. (2003) Modern Times, Ancient Hours: Working Lives in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Basso, P. (2014) Neoliberalism, crisis and international migration. In: L. Pradella and T. Marois (eds.) Polarizing Development. London: Pluto, pp. 86–97.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Benvegnù, C. (2015) Migrant workers in the logistic sector in Padua: Exploitation and unionization in the cooperatives. Paper presented at the conference “Testing EU citizenship as ‘labour citizenship’”; 23 October, University of Padua, Italy.

  11. Bologna, S. (2010) Le multinazionali del mare: Letture sul sistema marittimo-portuale. Rome: EGEA.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bologna, S. (2013a) Banche e crisi: Dal petrolio al container. Rome: DeriveApprodi.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bologna, S. (2013b) Lavoro e capitale nella logistica italiana: alcune considerazioni sul Veneto. Paper presented at the “40th Anniversario della costituzione di Interporto Padova Spa”; 15 march, Padua, Italy, http://it.scribd.com/doc/133176059/Bologna-Sergio-Lavoro-e-Capitale-Nella-Logistica-2013. Accessed Nov 10, 2015.

  14. Bologna, S., Curi, S. and Stevanato, D. (2013) Scenari dell’intermodalità: Studio per l’interporto di Padova. Padua: Interporto Spa.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Bonacich, E. and Wilson, J.B. (2008) Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor, and the Logistics Revolution. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Cafruny, A.W. (2015) European integration studies, European Monetary Union, and resilience of austerity in Europe: Post-mortem on a crisis foretold. Competition & Change 19(2): 161–177.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Cowen, D. (2010) A geography of logistics: Market authority and the security of supply chains. The Annals for the Association of American Geographers, 100(3): 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Cowen, D. (2014a) Logistics. In: P. Adey, D. Bissell, K. Hannam, P. Merriman and M. Sheller (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities. London: Routledge, pp. 187–195.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Cowen, D. (2014b) The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  20. Cuppini, N., Frapporti, M. and Pirone, M. (2015) Logistics struggles in the Po Valley region: Territorial transformations and processes of antagonistic subjectivation. The South Atlantic Quarterly 114(1): 119–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Curcio, A. (2014) Practicing militant inquiry: Composition, strike and betting in the logistics workers struggles in Italy. Ephemera 14(3): 375–390.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Euricse. (2014) La cooperazione italiana negli anni della crisi. Trento: Euricse.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Euricse. (2015) Economia cooperativa—Rilevanza, evoluzione e nuove frontiere della cooperazione italiana. Trento: Euricse.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Eurofound. (2014) Eurofound yearbook 2013: Living and working in Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

    Google Scholar 

  25. European Commission, EC. (2014) Helping Firms Grow: European Competitiveness Report 2014. Luxembourg: European Commission DG Enterprise and Industry.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Eurostat (2015) Industrial production (volume) index overview. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Industrial_production_(volume)_index_overview. Last Accessed July 20, 2015.

  27. Forte, E. and Miotti, D. (2015) L’outsourcing, la terziarizzazione dei trasporti e delle logistiche nelle filiere traslog. Paper presented at the 17th annual conference of SIET (Società Italiana di Economia dei Trasporti e della logistica), 29 June–1 July, Milan, Italy.

  28. Foster, J.B., McChesney, R.W. and Jonna, R.J. (2011) The global reserve army of labour and the new imperialism. Monthly Review 63(6): 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Gambarotto, F. and Solari, S. (2014) The peripheralization of Southern European capitalism within the EMU. Review of International Political Economy 22(4): 1–25.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Ghezzi, S. (2010) The fallacy of the formal and informal divide: Lessons from a Post-Fordist regional economy. In: E. Marcelli, C.C. Williams and P. Joassart (eds.) Informal Work in Developed Nations. London: Routledge, pp. 114–131.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Green, J. and Hay, C. (2015) Towards a new political economy of the crisis: Getting what went wrong right. New Political Economy, 20(3): 331–341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Harney, S. and Moten, F. (2013) The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Minor Compositions: Brooklin.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Head, S. (2014) Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Holmes, B. (2011) Do containers dream of electric people? The social form of just-in-time production. Open, 21: 30–44.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Huke, N., Clua-Losada, M. and Bailey, D.J. (2015) Disrupting the European crisis: A critical political economy of contestation, subversion and escape. New Political Economy, 20(5): 725–751.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Mariotti, I. (2015) Transport and Logistics in a Globalizing World: A Focus on Italy. New York: Springer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  37. Massarelli, F. (2014) Scarichiamo i padroni: Lo sciopero dei facchini a Bologna. Milan: Agenzia X.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Ministero delle infrastrutture e dei trasporti. (2012) Il piano nazionale della logistica 2012–2020: Bozza finale. Rome: Ministero delle infrastrutture e dei trasporti.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Neilson, B. (2012) Five theses on understanding logistics as power. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 13(3):323–340.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Ohno, T. (1988) Toyota Production System: Beyond Large Scale Production. Cambridge MA: Productivity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Osservatorio Contract Logistics, OCL. (2014) Outsourcing della logistica: tra falsi miti e creazione di valore. Milan: Politecnico di Milano.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Pavolini, E., León, M., Guillén, A.M. and Ascoli, U. (2015) From austerity to permanent strain? The EU and welfare state reform in Italy and Spain. Comparative European Politics, 13(1): 56–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Pradella, L. (2015) The working poor in Western Europe: Labour, poverty and global capitalism. Comparative European Politics, 13: 596–613.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Pradella, L. and Cillo, R. (2015) Immigrant labour in Europe in times of crisis and austerity. Competition and Change, 9(2): 145–160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Pradella, L. and Marois, T. (2014) Polarizing Development: Alternatives to Neoliberalism and the Crisis. London: Pluto.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Sacchetto, D. and Semenzin, M. (2014) Storia e struttura della costituzione d’impresa cooperativa. Scienza & Politica, 26(50): 43–62.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Sassen, S. (2007) A Sociology of Globalisation. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Scandalliato, M.E. (2013) Minacce, ricatti, una scia di sangue: le mani delle cosche sui magazzini. La Repubblica, 20 May.

  49. Sciotto, A. (2016) Il funzionario Fiom “licenziato” che ha tolto il sonno a Landini. Il manifesto, 15 April.

  50. SiCobas (2015a) Comunicato sindacale: prosegue la tenace lotta delle 12 lavoratrici dell’Holiday Inn Express di Bologna Fiera. Comunicato, 10 December, http://sicobas.org/notizie/ultime-3/2251-comunicato-sindacale-prosegue-la-tenace-lotta-delle-12-lavoratrici-dell-holiday-inn-express-di-bologna-fiera. Accessed Dec 10, 2015.

  51. SiCobas (2015b) Per un coordinamento nazionale di lotta tra i lavoratori metalmeccanici, 8 December, http://sicobas.org/notizie/ultime-3/2248-per-un-coordinamento-nazionale-di-lotta-tra-i-lavoratori-metalmeccanici. Accessed Dec 10, 2015.

  52. SiCobas and Adl Cobas (2013) 22 marzo 2013: grande giornata di sciopero. 24 March, http://www.sicobas.org/categorie/96-ccnl-logistica/iniziative/1253-22-marzo-2013-grande-giornata-di-sciopero. Accessed July 20, 2015.

  53. Silver, B. (2014) Theorising the working class in twenty-first-century global capitalism. In: M. Atzeni (ed.) Workers and labour in a globalised capitalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 46–69.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  54. Simonazzi, A., Ginzburg, A. and Nocella, G. (2013) Economic relations between Germany and southern Europe. Cambridge Journal of Economics 37: 653–675.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Timmer, M.P., Erumban, A.A., Los, B., Stehrer, R. and de Vries, J.G. (2014) Slicing up global value chains. The Journal of Economic Perspectives 28(2): 99–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Zerbino, M. (2013) La rivolta dei facchini immigrati: Intervista a Mohammed Arafat. La Repubblica, 27 March.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lucia Pradella.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cillo, R., Pradella, L. New immigrant struggles in Italy’s logistics industry. Comp Eur Polit 16, 67–84 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-016-0073-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • alternatives
  • economic crisis
  • immigrant workers
  • Italy
  • logistics
  • strike wave