Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 'pitchfork' protests

Flying around the supermarket as I always do when I go grocery shopping after work, I didn't pay much attention to the near-empty fruit and veg shelves. It was only when I got to the check-out when the lady at the till was talking to one of her colleagues about it that I realised. The shelves were almost empty because of the strikes by lorry drivers, deliveries were unable to reach the supermarkets. What is known as the forconi, 'pitchfork' movement, started in Sicily; with lorry drivers protesting about the rising costs associated with their jobs, such as fuel prices and motorway tolls.

Monday the movement started to spread to mainland Italy with many motorway junctions all over the country blocked by the protesters. From Lazio, to Puglia, to Campagnia and up here in Lombardia, the protesters were blocking the roads with their vehicles causing tailbacks. I watched a report last night about how lorry drivers in the south of Italy were being forced to take part in the strikes by protesters threatening to damage their vehicles if they didn't. Yesterday one of the protesters was tragically killed in an accident, by a German lorry driver who was not taking part in the protests. Eleven protesters have been arrested today, and it's estimated that 50 tonnes of goods such as milk, fresh fruit, and flowers are going to waste every day; and it's reported that prices for these goods in shops are already starting to rise.

The government is trying to stop the roadblocks. Today they announced new measures to try and appease the protesters, such as reducing motorway tolls. The situation seems to be improving as far as road transport is concerned, but the strikes are far from over. There's a 24 hour train strike from 9pm on Thursday, again as a result of Monti's new proposed measures, on the 27th local and air transport will be affected by strikes, and on the 1st of February pharmacies will be closed. It's going to be a difficult few weeks for this country.

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