1972: Millions of Workers Strike in Italy

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ROME, March 21 (UPI).—Seven million farm and industrial workers walked out today in a strike barely noticed by the man in the street. But motorists were more concerned by refinery and filling station strikes which may cause an Easter season gasoline shortage.

Two of Italy’s poorest and most unemployment-prone groups, farmhands and construction workers, spearheaded today’s strikes.

About 1.7 million farmhands staged their fifth 24-hour strike in four months to press demands for a new contract. Their demands included a request for a minimum daily wage of $4.72. Farm workers in 30 of Italy’s 94 provinces now make less than that.

Other demands included a 40-hour work week instead of the current 42-hour week, and guarantees against dismissal. Farmhands currently are hired for two-month periods with no guarantee of prolongation of employment.

Labor unions called out 5.5 million construction and industry workers in sympathy with the farmhands.

The construction workers, who have grievances of their own over pay, work accidents and unemployment, made it a 24-hour strike. Newspaper printers and chemical, textile, metal and food canning workers joined for periods ranging from two to four hours.

Smaller Groups

Most Italians were not affected by the strikes, apart from traffic jams caused by strikers’ marches in Rome, Milan, Naples and a dozen other cities.

However, strikes by two smaller groups — refinery and filling station workers — caused greater concern.

About 20,000 workers of private oil companies were in the second day of a 72-hour strike, the latest in a series which has reduced gasoline stocks in many refineries to a minimum.

Gasoline station attendants, demanding more money and shorter hours, called a new three-day strike starting at 9 p.m. today. Although one of the distributors’ three labor unions refused to join the strike call, labor experts said it was likely to be more effective than previous strikes, which sharply reduced the number of open filling stations.

The refinery strike also threatened to affect the cement industry, which is 85 percent powered by fuel oil. A number of cement plants reported their fuel stocks running out.

— The International Herald Tribune, March 22, 1972

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