Friday, January 27

Italy Strikes: Just what are they (all) on about?

Italy has been hit not just by mild earthquakes, but rolling strikes by seemingly every single category of worker and (non) across the country.  Even the indignados showed up at Parliament to put there own take on the problems befalling our broken system.  The only people, of course, who haven't complained (so far) are the Parliamentarians, still grossly overpaid, outnumbering their foreign counterparts by 2 to 1, and outrageously detached from the populace.  As gas stations, pharmacists, trains, taxis, truckers and more stop their work and take to the streets, Italy is starting to feel as though we're engaged in our very own intifada.  There's even police violence to put them in their place, as we witnessed with the fishermen marching on parliament as well.

So, let's take a look at our PM's efforts to bring Italy into the liberalized world of work and see what everyone's complaining about. [Everybody except the body that gives itself raises in the face of budget cuts, allows for never-ending perks, and goes against the law by deciding that those assisting the mafia are okay to serve as well.  With the Mafia Inc. the number one business in Italy, at least they can say they're pro-business].  

- Adding 5000 more pharmacies / As I state in my book, you would be forgiven for thinking that those neon green crosses were a modern update to the holy shrines found on nearly every street corner.  Turns out, there are not enough of them.  And the govt's going to make it easier to open one.  Pharmacists protest that it would ruin their profession.
- The govt wants to add more notaries as well, simplify some procedures, and improve competition in the auto insurance industry by forcing cos. to provide competing tariff information (I'd love to see how that's going to play out).
- They no longer wish to enforce min/max tariffs for lawyers as long as you are forewarned of the charges and they do want to enforce max bank charges and a ceiling on highway taxes, which today is the very definition of highway robbery.
On the whole, I think it looks like liberalization and keeps govt out of private companies & prof'l offices. Correct me if I'm mistaken.
- Adding to the pot, the govt wants more taxi licenses - unleashing the equivalent of the wrath of God - when, in fact, they should spend money on taxis by giving them all a crash course in Supply & Demand.
- The petroleum cos. and truckers are pissed over liberalizing gas contracts, meaning any gas station, despite its name, can buy from any supplier.  They're also keen on breaking up the supply chain to add to more competitiveness.  Gas stations will also be able to sell products in a mini-market, which I believe has the added consequence of pissing off retailers.  They will no longer have limits on the number of self-service stations either.  As for this last one, I have no idea why it was in place in the first place.
- The govt may win its battle on allowing shops to open / close when they want to, doing away with the siesta in the interim, but retailers won their war against allowing anyone to hold sales and offer product discounts whenever they want to.  They - incredibly - believe if that were the case, the large outlets and mega-stores would hold sales all year round and put them out of business.  
Little do they realize that those stores are already putting them out of business, and, those companies, with such low margins cannot readily afford sales 365 days per year...Once again, for a quickie course in Economics 101 is called for.
- And finally, the govt wants to put an end to nationalized work contracts (e.g., you're paid for your category whether you're an engineer in Lucca or Lecce).  This is an effort to liberalize the labour pool, allowing people to negotiate their pay & perks directly with the company they're looking to work for.  Naturally, this has put in a tail spin every single person that does not make up any of the above categories, starting with train people.  The workers argue that without a govt mandate, companies will start bringing salaries down to nothing as jobs are so hard to come by.  That's true, but eventually, the companies are going to need to attract people too.

As Mario Monti stated (a bit more eloquently than here), "I hope I've pretty much pissed everyone off."

It certainly is starting to look that way.

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