Thousands in Turin protest deaths at ThyssenKrupp

Thousands of people marched Monday through the streets of Turin demanding improved workplace safety following the deaths of four workers in a factory fire in the north-western Italian city last week. The protestors numbered some 30,000 according to news reports, included many metalworkers on an 8-hour work stoppage held in memory of their colleagues who died in the fire at the ThyssenKrupp steel-works plant. Three workers injured in the blaze are still hospitalized in serious condition. Union representatives who addressed protestors were booed by many workers who blame ThyssenKrupp of lax safety, but have also accused unions of not monitoring work conditions at the factory. 

Germany-based ThyssenKrupp in a statement released over the weekend said there was ‘no confirmation that violations of security standards were at the origin of the fire.’ Survivors of the blaze, which broke out during a night work-shift late last Wednesday, have said that several fire extinguishers were empty. They have also accused ThyssenKrupp of neglecting safety measures such as emergency training since the company decided to shut down the Turin plant by September 2008 and to transfer production to another factory in Terni, central Italy.

In its statement ThyssenKrupp acknowledged that production at the Turin plant was down to 30 per cent of capacity but insisted that the company ‘has continuously kept safety standards high, constantly verified by authorities in charge.’ According to news reports Monday, prosecutors have placed three officials of ThyssenKrupp under investigation. ‘There won’t be any legislation passed on the spot to ensure safety in the work place,’ Labour Minister Cesare Damiano said in an interview published Monday in Rome-based daily La Repubblica.

But Damiano said the centre-left government would press on with plans devised before Wednesday’s blaze to make negligence in matters of workplace safety a crime punishable with the arrest of those responsible. Damiano said the number of job-related fatalities has decreased in Italy from an average of some 3,000 workers in the 1960s, to 1,400 in 2002 and 1,302 last year. Some 984 people have died in workplace- related deaths in 2007.

According to European Union figures of 2003, Italy’s job fatality rate of around 2.5 per 100,000 workers equals the average rate for the bloc at the time, with Britain registering the lowest rate at 1.1 deaths for every 100,000 workers and Portugal the highest with around 7.5.

© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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