"Government is more worried about the fruit than the humans"

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Aboubakar Soumahoro, activist and trade unionist of the agricultural workers of the USB, in an interview with Fanpage.it, explains the reasons for the strike of the laborers called for next May 21, to protest against the conditions of regularization contained in the Relaunch decree: " We are more concerned about vegetables and fruit, which are feared to rot, rather than people whose rights have been rotting for years in the fields".

Workers from all over Italy will strike on May 21, 2020, to protest against the new amnesty for migrants, contained in the Re-launch decree, which has become urgent for the government due to the lack of labour in the fields and the consequent soaring prices of fruit and vegetables. A measure that in practice will exclude from the emergence many workers in construction, supermarkets, crafts, catering, logistics, who will not be able to apply.

There will be no one picking fruit and vegetables in the fields that day. "It is not arms that should be regularized, but human beings," is the message that will come loud and clear to the government, explained Aboubakar Soumahoro, activist and unionist of the USB agricultural workers, contacted by Fanpage.it.

Why this strike?

Let’s start from the current context. We have over 31,000 deaths from the virus. Doctors, nurses, health workers, have been called ’heroes’: here they are in the hospitals, when they were called to save lives, they never asked which party card the patients had in their pockets, nor did they ask the ideological or post-ideological position, whether or not the sick had a residence permit or an Italian identity card. They always treated those they had to, without ever shirking. The government in the context of the pandemic has the sole duty to protect lives, none excluded. When the ’Cura Italia’ decree was issued and general confinement measures were taken to prevent risks, it was discovered that the pre-existing context of the pandemic was a torn context, torn apart by social inequalities: people who do not even have a home do not know what social distancing is. The state had to save everyone. Instead it did exactly the opposite of what doctors and nurses do. People have been concerned about vegetables and fruit, which are feared to rot, rather than people whose rights have been rotting in the camps for years. I want to remember some names: Paola Clemente, 49-year-old farmhand from San Giorgio Jonico who died in a vineyard in Andria on June 13, 2015, Soumaila Sacko, 29 years old, from Mali, with a regular residence permit, shot dead in the Vibo area on June 3, 2018. And a thought goes out to all the men and women who every day break their backs in the fields. What is missing once again are the rights.

What is wrong with this measure?

It has clearly been chosen to produce a measure which is based on the merits of the matter and is based on concern for market utility rather than saving lives. We have a variety of criticisms, and I would like to mention just three of them: the fact that we have reserved regularisation for certain sectors, to the exclusion of others. Where are the riders, the logistics, the porters, the peddlers, the building contractors, the catering industry?

What are the other critical issues?

The second point concerns having reserved the regularization to those who have a residence permit expired on October 31, 2019. Here we must remember that everything is taking place in the legislative fabric of the Security Decrees. And so there are the victims of the decrees who will not have access to this emergence, because the government has not had the audacity, the courage, to cancel these decrees, which are a factory of production of marginality and the damned, made invisible. The third element that is wrong with the amnesty is that the residence permit has been subordinated to the employment contract, which is an explosive mixture of submission of the worker and the worker to any form of blackmail and exploitation.

What improvements did you propose to the measure?

The urgency consisted in issuing a residence permit in the light of the current pandemic context, which is also convertible for work. Our proposal is simple.

What is the expected participation in the strike?

In the meantime, I want to say that on that day there will be no asparagus harvest, no blueberry harvest or vegetable harvest. Since we were invisible to the State on 21 May, we will be invisible to the fields too. It will be a total strike. At the same time we have received the solidarity of a great many consumers and consumers, hundreds, who are rediscovering what is behind a fork of spaghetti, namely sweat, fatigue, impoverishment. And they are sending us so many messages, to announce that they will not be shopping that day, and will virtually wear boots, while we will be in the countryside, with real boots, crossing our arms. Then we are also receiving messages from many farmers, telling us that they will not go to work that day. We have had thousands of sign-ups. There are assemblies, in Agro Pontino, in Emilia-Romagna, in Tuscany, in Calabria, in Foggia. There will be a big assembly there on Sunday in the settlement of the workers of Torretta Antonacci. Among those who will strike there are also labourers with a residence permit, because their rights are not recognized. At the moment there are labourers in the Piana di Gioia Tauro who are employed in the blueberry harvest, and they receive 30 euros per day, they break their backs from dawn to dusk, instead of the 50 euros provided for in the contract. It is clear that no one must afford to instrumentalize the toil of these men and women, narrating a reality that does not exist, when they have never put on their boots sentimentally, morally, ethically and concretely to identify with the workers, whether Italian or foreign.

What did you think when Minister Bellanova was moved when she announced the decree?

I was engaged in an assembly with the laborers.

What is the protection equipment in the fields, what data do you have?

I launched a collection campaign, still open, while the various decrees were issued, because the laborers were told that they had to work in the fields to ensure food for the population, without personal protective equipment, and until now, those who talk about fighting the corporat (illegal hiring), was not able to call the table on the exploitation and the corporat in agriculture, while we were, and are, exposed. Thanks to our collection we continue to buy and distribute food to farm workers and families, including Italian ones, and personal protective equipment. We have not received even one, from those who said they were worried about our condition, when in reality they are not sentimentally connected with us. We are travelling everywhere, we have been to Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, and we will continue to travel Italy. The government has abdicated this noble and civilized mission. But we are not giving up, we will continue to ask for the salvation of the people.

Source: https://www.fanpage.it/politica/braccianti-in-sciopero-soumahoro-a-fanpage-it-governo-preoccupato-della-frutta-non-delle-persone/