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Italy and Greece, before and after the crisis: between mobilization and resistance against precarity

Alice Mattoni et Markos Vogiatzoglou
p. 57-71

Résumés

En examinant les formes de mobilisation et de résistance contre la précarité en Italie et en Grèce, avant et après la crise économique, cet article montre comment les mouvements de protestation impliquant des travailleurs précaires se sont progressivement transformés dans ces pays. D’une part, les actions les plus récentes entreprises par les travailleurs précaires visent à renégocier les modalités de leurs activités syndicales et politiques au sein même de leur espace de travail. D’autre part, le répertoire des actions est aujourd’hui plus large que dans le dernier cycle des mobilisations. Alors que les actions de protestation ont longtemps tenu le premier rôle, on assiste en effet depuis quelques années au développement d’actions moins controversées telles que la fourniture de services aux travailleurs précaires et la relance du mutualisme pensé comme modalité de résistance à la crise économique.

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Notes de l’auteur

Both authors contributed equally to this work. However, in compliance with Italian academic norms, the authors acknowledge that: Markos Vogiatzoglou wrote sections 1, 2.1 and the con­clusion; Alice Mattoni wrote the introduction and section 2.2. The authors thank Lorenzo Zamponi and Yiorgos Tsopanakis for the valuable comments on previ­ous drafts of the present contribution

Texte intégral

  • 1 B. Neilson & N. Rossiter, « Precarity as a Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception », in Theory (...)
  • 2 S. P. Vallas, « Rethinking Post-Fordism: The Meaning of Workplace Flexibility », in Sociological Th (...)
  • 3 J. Delcourt, « Flexibility: A source of new rights for workers? », in G. Spyropoulos (Ed.), Trade u (...)
  • 4 B. Appay, « Précarisation sociale et restructurations productives », in B. Appay & A. Thébaud-Mony (...)

1The financial crisis has provoked rather violent changes in the working and living conditions of the workers’ population, especially in countries that suffer most from its consequences, such as the majority of Southern European countries. Yet already in the 1990s, the flexibilization of labour relations deepened the segmentation of labour market bringing along further divisions between workers in standard employment and workers in nonstandard employment. The latter are not new in the history of labour: in fact, early capitalism in the 19th century was almost entirely based on an extremely flexible and vulnerable workforce1. However, a number of working class struggles, as well as changes in the capitalist productive procedure, contributed to smoothen some aspects of the workers’ exploitation. To a certain extent, in the aftermath of World War II, labour relations were increasingly revolving around full-time and open-ended contracts – the standard form of employment in factories as well as in other labour market sectors, such as the public services’ one2. The structure of the labour market began to change again in the 1970s: in a parallel (perhaps complementary) way to the dismantling of the Fordist-era welfare state3, the labour field was also deregulated through the adoption of new forms of work flexibility4.

  • 5 D. Carrico, « Precarity and Experimental Subjec­tion » (2007) Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http (...)
  • 6 L. Waite, « A Place and Space for a Critical Geo­graphy of Precarity? », in Geography Compass, 3(1) (...)
  • 7 N. Ettlinger, « Precarity Unbound », in Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 32(3), 2007, p. 320 (...)
  • 8 S. Hausermann & H. Schwander, « Varieties of Dualization? Labor Market Segmentation and Insider-Out (...)

2This process contributed to the emergence of a relatively new type of phenomenon – precarity – rooted in the labour realm, yet bearing conse­quences in the whole life of individuals, and consequently led to a new kind of social subject: the precarious worker. Precarity can be defined as the “casualization of everyday life”5deriving from the flexibility imposed in labour relations. It is a phenomenon “contextually specific in contemporary times that emanates primarily from labour market experiences”6, putting individuals in “a condition of vulnerability relative to contin­gency and the inability to predict”7. At the same time, the weakening of the Fordist era welfare state policies led to the shrinking of social protec­tion for nonstandard employees8. The precarious worker, being an atypical dependent employee and subjected to flexible labour relations, progres­sively lacked or had inadequate access to welfare state and other forms of social protection.

  • 9 A. Mattoni & M. Vogiatzoglou, « Today, We are Precarious. Tomorrow, We Will be Unbeatable. Early St (...)
  • 10 A. Mattoni & M. Vogiatzoglou, op. cit.; M. Pedaci, « The Flexibility Trap: Temporary Jobs and Preca (...)
  • 11 R. Rizza, « Trasformazioni del lavoro, nuove forme di precarizzazione lavorativa e politiche di wel (...)
  • 12 J. Faniel, « Trade Unions and the Unemployed: Towards a Dialectical Approach », in Interface. A Jou (...)
  • 13 F. F. Piven & R. A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements. Why They Succeed, How They Fail, New York, Pa (...)
  • 14 D. Chabanet, « Les marches européennes contre le chômage, la précarité et les exclusions », in R. B (...)
  • 15 A. Mattoni, Media Practices and Protest Politics. How Precarious Workers Mobilise, Farnham,Ashgate, (...)
  • 16 B. Baumgarten, « Geração à Rasca and beyond: Mobilizations in Portugal after 12 March 2011 », in Cu (...)

3Due to their living and working conditions, precarious workers spoke the language of the current economic crisis well before it began to hit larger portions of the population, especially since usually they lacked access to political insti­tutional allies, hold scarce economic resources, and were even absent from the public debate as such9. The multiple marginality of precarious workers is well documented in literature10. Their particular working and living conditions are con­sidered as disincentives towards their engagement in collective action: mobilizing and organizing for precarious workers is indeed a complicated and demanding process11, similarly to what happened in the case of unemployed who were particularly difficult to mobilize, also from the perspective of trade unions that experience some structural constraints in approaching the unemployed12. However, the unemployed did mobilize in several European and non-European countries, especially during the waves of mass unemployment that overwhelmed many countries during the 1930s, in the second half of the 1970s and again in the 1990s13, also at a European transnational level14. By analogy, in the past decades, the precarious workforce also engaged in various forms of collective action and mobilization, in several countries around the globe15. Precarity, more­over, was a rather stable issue during recent anti­austerity protests in many European countries16.

4In what follows, we engage in a cross-time and cross-country comparison of precarious workers’mobilizations. Our work focuses on two Southern European countries: Italy and Greece. In both cases, precarity has been – and still is – a relevant contentious issue around which many activist groups mobilize. First, we will discuss the changing context in which precarious workers’ mobilizations took place both in Italy and Greece. Second, we will compare precarious workers’ mobilizations in Italy and Greece before and after the economic crisis. Finally, in the conclusion, we will reflect on how the changing of contextual conditions and the evolution of protests intertwined in both countries, leading to changes in the field of struggle around precarity.

How did we get there? The flexibilization of the labour market in Italy and Greece

  • 17 J.Atkinson, Flexibility, Uncertainty and Manpower Management, Institute of Manpower Studies (Univer (...)
  • 18 Christos A. Ioannou, « Change and continuity in Greek industrial relations: the role of and impact (...)
  • 19 K. Tsoukalas, State, Society and Labour in Post-War Greece, Athens, Themelio, 1987.
  • 20 It is important to note that these tools were introduced in an oppressive and restrictive political (...)
  • 21 G. Bedani, Politics and Ideology in the Italian Workers’ Movement, London, Berg Publishers, 1995 (c (...)
  • 22 Presidenza del consiglio dei Ministri, La Costi­tuzione della Repubblica Italiana (2013). governo.i (...)
  • 23 The Workers’statute is the fundamental Italian labor legislative text, where, as most authors ackno (...)

5As we already mentioned above, the post-Fordist era of labour relations witnessed significant changes in workplace organization, working schedules, hiring and dismissal procedures, as well as in the domain of employment contracts. At a legislative level, the flexibilization proce­dure was gradual and long-lasting in Europe. Starting from the late 1970s and based on a theoretical analysis of the labour market’s “rigidness” as a potential cause of the post-1973 economic crisis17, various countries began to adopt patterns of employment contracts which di­verted from the typical, open-ended, 9-to-5 Fordist-era model. Both Greece and Italy arrived late in the game. As Ioannou18argues, the Greek labour relations system followed a static path in the post-World War II period, maintaining a more-or-less Fordist structure until the early 1990s. Greece traditionally had a weak industrial basis; its labour market configuration lacked the refinement and diversity which one might encounter in countries with a more diversified production system. In the post-World War II set­ting, the vast majority of the Greek workers – at least those who did not migrate to Western Europe – were being employed either by the (quickly expanding) Greek State19, or by small or very small companies. The prevalence of open-ended contracts, a small, yet relatively steady, rise of the workers’ income, and the introduction of some collective bargaining tools20were some of the labour market characteristics of the period. With regard to Italy, the presence of a strong workers’ movement, backed by firm alliances of the union confederations and the parliamentary parties21, as well as the constitutional provisions22which, in 1970, were integrated and further developed in the so-called statuto dei lavoratori (Worker’s Statute)23, produced counter-incentives and po­tentially complicated any abrupt changes in the labour market regulation. Yet, the labour market’s relative competitiveness discourse during the 1990s was far too strong for the two countries which were struggling with stagnation and less­than-acceptable macroeconomic performance.

  • 24 L. Gallino, Il lavoro non è una merce. Contro la flessibilità, Roma, Laterza, 2007.
  • 25 E. Milo, The changes in the labor relations’status of state-controlled companies: The case of OTE, (...)

6The flexibilization procedure in Italy was dis­tributed in four different legislative initiatives, which were voted and implemented in the decade from 1993 to 200324. The provisions included a wide array of non-typical employment contracts, but not many substantial changes in the work­ing conditions of the people who were already working under open-ended agreements. In Greece, the promotion of labour market flexibility had preceded the financial crisis of the 2010s. From 1990, the year when part-time employment was introduced in the labour relations’ system, to 2009, at least eight legislative packages made reference to flexible labour and deregulated some aspects of the labour market and/or re-regulated others in accordance to international standards25.

  • 26 OECD, OECD. StatExtracts. OECD. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from http://stats.oecd.org
  • 27 . Ibid.
  • 28 INE-GSEE, Greek economy and employment - an­nual report 2011, Athens, 2011.
  • 29 OECD, op. cit.

7All these legislative changes had a concrete impact on various aspects of the two countries’ labour market. According to the OECD, the over­all level of strictness of employment protection had significantly decreased in Italy and Greece, from 3.06 and 3.46 (out of a maximum of 5 points) in 2000, respectively, to 2.38 and 2.81 in 201026. The time span of the introduction and use of fixed-term contracts played a key-role in the above changes. In Italy, the development was more linear: the share of temporary employment was around 7 % in 1995, almost steadily increasing to reach a 12.8 % in 201027. In Greece, fixed-term contracts represented a 10.5 % of total contracts in 1995, only slightly increasing to 12 % in 2010. Yet this situation is rapidly changing, as almost two thirds of the contracts signed since 2010 are fixed-term, part-time, or both28. With regard to part-time contracts, in Italy, the percentage – as a portion of total employment – rose from 13.5 % in 2000 to 17.4 % in 2010. In Greece, from 6.4 % to 10 %. Furthermore, data shows an important raise of the involuntary part-timers’percentage in Italy during the last decade (from 17 % to 32 %)29.

  • 30 INE-GSEE, op. cit., p. 241.
  • 31 L. M. Kahn, « Labor Market Policy: A Compara­tive View on the Costs and Benefits of Labor Market Fl (...)
  • 32 OECD, op. cit.
  • 33 OECD, op. cit.

8In Greece the change was even more dramatic, as from 2000 to 2009 the percentage had only risen from 28 % to 32 %, to explode during the next two years to 50.5 % and 57.1 %, respectively30. Finally, it is important to see how, during the same period, wage flexibility has increased in the two countries. The degree of wage flexibility in a labour market is measured with two indica­tors: the labour markets’ collective agreement coverage and the union density. The higher the labour force participation in unions, the higher the possibility of union representation in the workplace, hence requesting direct collective bargaining to take place31. Both Greece and Italy presented a rather stable percentage of union density from 2000 to 2010, slightly higher than the OECD countries’ average32. Yet there are significant variations when examining the difference between coverage rates of collective agreements and the trade union density. The latest data available refer to 2005; Greece’s difference between union density and collective agreement coverage stands at a mere 32 %, whilst Italy’s difference is 53 %33. It would be reasonable to assume that the obligatory extension of collec­tive agreements to all workers of each particular sector or region (even if they have not participated or were represented in the bargaining process) is significantly higher in Italy, than in Greece.

  • 34 G. Bronzini, « Il precariato e la giustizia del lavoro », in AA. VV. (Ed.), Gli insubordinati. Viag (...)
  • 35 P. Emmenegger et al., « How We Grow More Un­equal », in P. Emmenegger et al. (Eds.), op. cit., p. 1 (...)

9In both countries, the labour market flexibili­zation matched with the non-implementation of any serious reform of the welfare state. Rather, simple cutting down of benefits and of the bene­ficiaries’ numbers34occurred. The basic welfare state structure remained unchanged despite of the rise of precarious workers, leading to a “process of dualization”, where “policies increasingly differentiate rights, entitlements, and services provided to different categories of recipients”35.

  • 36 OECD, « Population, employment (national con­cept), employment by industry (domestic concept): Gree (...)
  • 37 K. Györffy, « Italy Unemployment Rate » (Re­trieved November 14, 2013, from http://www.tradingecono (...)
  • 38 OECD, OECD.StatExtracts. OECD. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from http://stats.oecd.org.
  • 39 N. Fontes, « Italy Growth Rate » (Retrieved No­vember 14, 2013, from http://www.tradingeconomics.co (...)

10Precarious workers’ living conditions worsened during the economic crisis: In Greece, the violence and intensity of the measures imposed after 2010, radically changed the contextual framework in which social movement organizations in general, and trade unions in particular operated. The sharp increase of unemployment – about 1.500.000 people were unemployed in 2013, representing the 15 % of the total population and 28 % of the workforce36 – had a twofold consequence. On the one hand, the tools of the traditional industrial dispute repertoire, such as strikes, became less effective in producing concrete outcomes. On the other hand, massive unemployment reinforced the need to develop organizational formats which would include and facilitate the participation of the unemployed. Another relevant change was the ongoing humanitarian crisis taking place in Greece starting from 2010, that obliged social movement organizations to turn their focus on socially useful activities that could have a direct positive impact on the suffering population. Although Italy did not face the same dramatic austerity measures, the country was also hit hard by the crisis and the ongoing recession. Preca­rious workers’organizations had to deal with new challenges, as the unemployment rate doubled from 6.2 % in 2008 to 12.5 % in September 201337, the youth unemployment reached 35.9 % in 2012 (from 19.4 % in December 2007)38 and the nega­tive GDP growth during the same period39 left few hopes for a quick reversal of these negative trends. These dynamics and shifts also had an impact onthewayprecarious workers’mobiliza­tions developed. In what follows we will discuss how the mobilizations changed over the years, comparing protests before and after the economic crisis in Italy and Greece.

Continuities and discontinuities in precarious workers’ political participation. Mobilization before the economic crisis

  • 40 A. Mattoni, op. cit.; N. Doerr & A. Mattoni, « Public spaces and alternative media networks in Euro (...)
  • 41 A. Mattoni, « Serpica Naro and the others. The
  • 42 A. Mattoni, Media Practices and Protest Politics. How Precarious Workers Mobilise, Farnham,Ashgate, (...)
  • 43 A. Mattoni, op. cit.

11During the early stage of precarious workers’ mobilizations, before the economic crisis, in Italy many protests put an emphasis on the need to construct and reinforce a common sense of belonging amongst precarious workers. The importance of constructing common meanings on precarity while respecting the differences amongst precarious workers was reflected in the very format of the Mayday Parade against precarity, that occurred each year on May 1st in Milan from 2001 – when it was still a national protest event – to 2004 – when it became a trans­national day of protest for European precarious workers40, and still lasts today though in a dif­ferent form. Already during the first editions of the Mayday Parade, activist groups who were willing to participate in the parade were asked to construct their own trucks in order to represent their own understandings of precarity. Along the same line, the 2004 San Precario direct actions in supermarkets, bookshops, theatres and other places of consumption also aimed at establishing a sense of common belonging between activists and customers, on the one side, and activists and workers, on the other side41. Even the struggles aiming at improving the working conditions in a specific workplace, e.g. the fight of the Precari Atesia collective in the call centre Atesia that reached its peak in 2005, had strong symbolic elements oriented towards the constitution of a cohesive and aware political subject42. In short, many of the Italian protests occurring from 2001 to 2006 aimed at breaking the individualization of the precarious workers. In this sense, the em­phasis on the symbolic dimension deeply inter­twined with the forms of protests that precarious workers deployed in Italy, most of which origina­ted outside the realm of confederate trade unions43.

  • 44 J. Kouzis, The characteristics of the Greek Union Movement, Athens, Gutenberg, 2007.
  • 45 A. Mattoni & M. Vogiatzoglou, op. cit.

12In Greece, the mobilization was spearheaded by grassroots unions operating directly in the workplace. This was partly due to the specific characteristics of the Greek trade union system, which has only one and a pluralist, in political terms, workers’ confederation, offering a rela­tively high degree of autonomy to grassroots union formations (such as productive sector and single-corporation ones)44. Contrary to the situation of Italian precarious workers, no visibility campaigns were initiated by their Greek counterparts. The symbolic content that precarious workers built upon in order to organize their struggle was linked to the specific characteristics of the grassroots trade unions. And the discourse developed was linked to traditional labor claim­making procedures45. As the Greek precarious workers’ unions were operating in a working environment composed both by precarious and non-precarious employees and which addressed an equally mixed audience, the obvious choice was to embed the flexible labor-oriented claims and demands into the more general setting of working class struggles.

13This was reflected in the contentious repertoire developed during this period. The Greek pre­carious workers’unions activity could be divided into three broad categories. First, the attempt to contrast the widespread belief that the new, atypi­cal workforce could not be unionized, through intensive campaigns to legitimize and confirm their presence on the workplace. The Wage Earner Technician’s Union (SMT), for instance, a union operating in construction, engineering and telecommunications’companies, mostly used its resources into organizing “surprise visits” in companies and workplaces where no union representation had hitherto existed, distributing leaflets and speaking with the employees.

  • 46 Quoted in: M. Vogiatzoglou, Precarious Workers’ Unions in the Greek Syndicalist Movement, Universit (...)

14The rationale behind this contentious performance as Kostas, one of the union’s board members, explained, was that they “want[ed] to make their presence visible to the workers there. We want[ed] both the employer and the employees to know that we could return as many times as needed, if an issue occurs”46.

  • 47 L. Turner, « Introduction: An urban resurgence of social unionism », in L. Turner & D. B. Cornfield (...)
  • 48 M. Vogiatzoglou, op. cit.

15Second, an attempt to introduce elements of what has been coined as “social movement unionism”47by engaging in activities usually linked to traditional social movement organizations – demonstrations, solidarity campaigns, occasionally forms of minor political violence, but also collaboration efforts with non-labour-related movement organizations. This could be attributed to the fact that the new unions’ leadership was already well networked with the broader Greek movement scene48. As a grassroots union member noted, “the initiatives launched in precarious labour workplaces, are usually led by people who have already traced their own path, who are already politicized” [Interview with G., 2010]. Finally, the unions’ efforts to coordinate amongst themselves aimed to increase their actions’impact inside the work­places where they were present. In the aftermath of the assassination attempt against a migrant unionist, in late 2008, the Primary Unions’ Coordination assembly was launched in Athens, in order to organize the solidarity campaign to the injured syndicalist. The founding entities were precarious workers’ unions. As time went by, the Coordination widened its scope and grew in numbers. Similar projects were launched in several cities.

Resistance after the economic crisis

16As we noted above, the context in which precarious workers were embedded changed dramatically after the economic crisis hit Italy and Greece. The presence of many social movement organizations that originated in the early stages of precarious workers mobilizations assured some extent of continuity to protests developing around the issue of precarity, also during the years of the economic crisis. The economic crisis brought nonetheless with it some relevant transformations with regard to the scope of precarious workers mobilizations, and the forms of collective action, both with regard to contentious performances in the strict sense and with regard to other kinds of collective actions that did not involve protests.

  • 49 N. Doerr & A. Mattoni, op. cit.

17First, at a more general level, the overall scope of mobilizations around precarity shifted under different respects. Unlike previous mobilizations occurring before the economic crisis, in times of austerity measures the main objective was not the visibility of precarious workers at a political and public level, and the related emergence and affirmation of a cohesive political subject, but rather the improvement of working and living conditions of circumscribed groups of precarious workers. With this regard, struggles around precarity strongly signalled the challenges of organizing precarious workers with different working and living conditions who are employed in the same labour market sector. This change matched with transformations related to the territorial level of protests. A good example is the trajectory of the Euro Mayday Parade, since its first edition in 2001, before the crisis erupted for instance, and which continued to be organized also in more recent years. Over the years, indeed, the parade underwent a downward scale shift: from a transnational European protest event that connected activist groups from many European countries, between 2004 and 2006 in particular49, to a national protest strongly linked to the local level of Milan, where it was originally launched in 2001. Furthermore, during the economic crisis, the number of protesters participating in the Euro Mayday parade shrank considerably. And, at the same time, the national scale became less relevant, while local protests seemed to multiply within specific working places and labour sectors.

  • 50 A. Mattoni, op. cit.

18Second, the mobilizations against precarity changed with regard to the protest context in which claims were formulated as well as the organizational forms on which precarious workers’ activism relied. There were, of course, some apparent continuities. In Italy, activist groups still organized national demonstrations on an almost regular basis, as well as regional and local demonstrations, in which precarity was still a key issue. However, some differences should be noted in the context in which demands to fight precarity were brought forward. For instance, national demonstrations claiming for basic income for everyone were organized both before and after the economic crisis in Italy. Though, during the early national demonstrations, the claim for a basic income was explicitly linked to the need of recognizing precarious workers as a political subject in Italy50. When looking at more recent demonstrations, instead, the demand for basic income often intertwine with more material claims linked to the economic crisis. This means that, at the same time, some of the instances which were at first strictly linked to precarious workers’ mobilizations are now included in more general demonstrations against austerity measures. A good example in this case is the large national demonstration that took place in Rome on October 19th, 2013: about 100.000 protesters from all over Italy came together representing different struggles that crossed the country in the past few years and months: in particular, those linked to protests against the construction of big infrastructures – like the high speed train in Val di Susa, to the North of Turin, and the occupations of empty buildings to reclaim the right to have a house. Significantly, the opening slogan of the demonstration was “only one big endeavour: home and income for everyone.

19In Greece, the severe austerity measures led to intense strikes, especially in the years 2011-2012 when more than 30 days of general strike were proclaimed by the Greek Trade Union Confede­ration and several productive sectors engaged into multiple-day strikes and production blockades. The Precarious Workers’ Unions were present in all of these struggles, fostering an impres­sive presence in the streets of Athens and other cities. At the same time, many new unions were founded which gathered numerous precarious workers, amongst which the Audiovisual Sector Technicians’ Union, the union of Dependent Employees working under the status ofAssociates and the Union of call center Workers of OTE.

  • 51 J. Fine, « Community Unions and the Revival of theAmerican Labor Movement », in Politics & Society, (...)

20Simultaneously, though, experimental forms of organizing emerged, promoting a radically diver­sified set of movement repertoire and levels of intervention. The most prominent amongst them is the founding of community-based Workers’ Clubs in various neighborhoods of Athens. In a similar way to the US experience of the mid-90s51, the Workers’Clubs aimed at extending the labour struggle beyond the limits of the workplace. As a member of the Nea Smyrni Workers’ Club (WCNS) stated: “The Workers’ Club wants to become a ‘city union’, which will complement, not substitute, the working class unionism inside the labour space. At the same time, it shall unite in the struggle the workers and the unemployed in the field of the city” [Interview with WCNS, 2012].

  • 52 Redazione Precaria, « Chi siamo », Rete Redattori Precari (2008) Available at: http://www.rerepre.o (...)
  • 53 Redattori Sociali, « Apri gli occhi ! Questa cultura rende schiavi ! », Rete Redattori Precari Avai (...)
  • 54 S. Pazienza, « Fra Quello Dei Nemici Scrivi Anche Il Tuo Nome. Redattori Editoriali: Prove Di Autor (...)

21Also in Italy one may find ongoing experiments, such as the Rete dei Redattori Precari (Network of Precarious Editors) that began to organize early in 2008, independently from existing trade unions, to reclaim better working conditions and to constitute a representative body able to give voice and contractual power to precarious editors52. After some months of mobilization within and outside the workplaces, the Network of Precarious Editors attracted the attention of the major Italian confederate trade union (CGIL) and of the affiliated union of workers in the communication sector (SLC).A temporary collaboration began between the confederate trade union and the network of self-organized precarious workers in order to include some demands of the latter in the general platform that the CGIL was preparing for the negotiations concerning the renewal of the national contract of publishing sector workers. In the following years, the Network of Precarious Editors continued to be active as an aggregator of otherwise atomized precarious workers. One of its last actions, in 2013, included the naming and shaming of Mondadori Editore, a major Italian publishing house. Precarious editors asked customers to boycott its products, as 50 % of its workforce was composed of precarious workers53. However, these struggles remained isolated and activists faced many difficulties in organizing the fragmented Mondadori’s precarious workforce54. The individualization of labour relations linked to precarity is indeed one of the most challen­ging aspects when trying to organize precarious labour, even when mobilizations occur within the same workplace. The economic crisis, with this respect, made the elaboration of effective struggles even more difficult, since precarious workers are particularly weak – also in terms of social protection – when it comes to negotiate their rights.

  • 55 Officine Zero, Pazza Idea - Press Release Officine Zero - June 2013 (transl. by the authors).

22Third, in comparison with mobilizations that occurred before the economic crisis, precarious workers broadened the range of their collective actions, going to some extent beyond contentious performances and focusing on the development of services for precarious workers. The objective was to construct real alternatives to some of the problems that precarious workers face in their daily lives, going beyond the mere organization of protest actions. In the case of Greece, the harsh humanitarian crisis also had a relevant role in reshaping their collective actions. The attempt to provide services was often supported through direct action-style activity, such as the occupa­tion of buildings. An example is the recent wave of theatre occupations in several Italian cities, starting from the Teatro Valle in Rome. In this case, a quite contentious performance – the occu­pation of abandoned buildings – was instrumental for precarious workers in the cultural industry, attempting at the same time to produce income for themselves and to defend a common good available to all, cultural production. Another relevant example along these lines is the creation of common work spaces for precarious freelance workers but also those who are temporarily unemployed, who do not even have a proper work space in the company that employs them as “associates”. The activists who manage, beyond the logic of profit, these co-working spaces also aim at creating connections between otherwise isolated precarious freelance workers, recognizing the importance of sharing the same workspace to create mutual trust, to exchange experiences and possibly to decide to engage in collective action to improve the working and living conditions. This is the aim of SUC – Spazio Ufficio Condiviso in Milan, born out of the collaboration between the Network of Precarious Editors and the Piano Terra, an occupied activist space in the Isola neighborhood. Another interesting experience in this direction is Officine Zero. In this case, a factory which shut down in 2008 was occupied by its 33 former workers. The occupation was supported by neighborhood activist groups who assisted the workers in the conversion of the factory into a multifunctional space which would provide services to the local community: a small self-managed student house; a co-working space for precarious and autonomous workers; and the “chamber for autonomous and precarious labour”. As one of the first official declarations of Officine Zero suggests, this expe­rience combined “[...] mutualism and cooperation between those subjects who most suffer from the austerity blackmails”55.

23Despite that no mutualism tradition exists in Greece for social movement organizations to draw upon, also in that case the economic crisis and the austerity measures led social actors to experiment with new forms of solidarity and cooperation, moving beyond a more conten­tious repertoire. Some examples include: the “Unemployment Technicians’ Card” issued by the Wage earners Technicians’ Union, which aimed at providing its unemployed members free training courses as well as a set of discounts and free access to basic goods. Then, the soup kitchens organized by the Workers’ Clubs and many other precarious workers’ organizations. Another example is the self-organized primary health assistance clinics founded by unemployed and precarious doctors all over Greece (more than 50 were operating in mid-2013), in order to provide medical coverage to the huge numbers of people who lost access to the official Public Health System, due to unemployment and/or in­ability to pay their contributions. Finally, various collectives were founded or transformed them­selves into productive associations, in order to produce income for their members and propose an alternative development model for Greece. Horizontally self-managed restaurants, bars, bookstores, agricultural cooperatives, courier services, newspapers and magazines sprang up all over the country during the years of the crisis; the vast majority of the people who populated them were precarious workers and/or recently unemployed.

  • 56 See, for example, the 6-months occupation of the Altec Telecoms call-center, the 1-week occupation (...)

24Finally, and in a similar way to the Italian case, issues related to the space where the contentious activity took place were central to the debate developed amongst the precarious workers. Occupying one’s workspace, a practice well­known to precarious activists in the previous period56, was further developed as a contentious tool, in the sense that it would now include the physical space’s recuperation. Experiments such as the (similar to the Teatro Valle in Rome) occu­pied theatre EMPROS in Athens, the founding of small cooperatives inside pre-existing squats and social centers and, most importantly, the occupied factory of VIO.ME. in Thessaloniki, which served as an ideal type of how self-organized, horizontal workers’ control can be put in prac­tice, signalled a radical change in the percep­tion of the usual dilemma, whether precarious workers’ activity should focus inside or outside the workplace.

25The transformations and more recent trajectories of precarious workers mobilizations illustrated in this section, call for a reflection on some key questions when it comes to the mobilization of workers put in a marginal position within socie­ties. In particular, in the following conclusive section we will bring forward three questions which require further theoretical discussion and empirical research: the meaning of the work­place for precarious workers and their struggles; the broadening of collective actions in which precarious workers engage, beyond mere public protests; and, finally, the understanding of what unionism means today for precarious workers, in times of harsh austerity measures.

Conclusions: Changes and developments in the contentious field around precarity

26In this article we discussed the evolution of precarious workers’ mobilizations before and after the economic crisis in Italy and Greece. Our aim was to show how protest involving precarious workers as well as precarity as a contentious issue, changed over time in the two countries. Although we do not engage in an extensive longitudinal comparison, we believe that this article already provides some relevant insights in what is changing, with regard to mobilization, within the most marginalized sectors of the labour market. Three points seem to be particularly important.

27First, it is clear that the late proposals brought forward by precarious workers, both in Greece and Italy, call for a re-negotiation of what is, according to them, the workspace, and how the latter relates to their political and syndicalist activity, as well as the non-working environment. Contrary to the traditional labour unionism, where the political activity inside the workplace is limited to member recruitment, the precarious workers not only expand the array of potential actions, but, additionally, propose new spatial arrangements regarding income production and the development of social relations amongst the, otherwise isolated, freelance precarious workers. In this context, perhaps the dilemma “inside or outside the workplace” is simply irrelevant.

28Then, one could identify the passage from a repertoire of contention mainly based on protests to a broader set of activities that also includes less contentious actions, such as the provision of services to precarious workers and, also, a revamp on mutualism as a form of resistance to the economic crisis. This shift from protest to resistance is highlighted by the similarity of the dynamics noted in Greece and Italy, despite the fact that both their historical background (lack of relevant movement experience in Greece) and the structural framework (much smoother austerity measures in Italy) were significantly different.

  • 57 C. Crouch, Trade Unions: The Logic of Collective Action, Glascow, Fontana Press, 1982, p. 3.

29Finally, the above, as well as the rapid changes in the organizational formats utilized by precarious workers to coordinate their struggle (an issue which we could not thoroughly examine in the limited space of this article), point in the direc­tion of a third, perhaps wider-scale, renegotiation taking place amongst the precarious workers. In the distant 1982, Crouch had defined the trade union as “an organization of employees who have combined together to improve their returns from and conditions at work”57. If this definition is still valid today, then one shall not fail to notice that through the combined renovation of the workers organizations’ contentious repertoire, organi­zational format and physical location proposed by precarious workers, the question they pose is nothing less than what is the content of union­ism and the unionization procedures today in a divided and austerity ridden Europe.

30We consider that future research on precarious labour should take the above into account, fo­cusing on longitudinal and comparative projects which will highlight the temporal and cross-national dynamics of the phenomenon.

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Notes

1 B. Neilson & N. Rossiter, « Precarity as a Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception », in Theory, Culture & Society, 25(7-8), 2008, pp. 51-72. doi:10.1177/0263276408097796.

2 S. P. Vallas, « Rethinking Post-Fordism: The Meaning of Workplace Flexibility », in Sociological Theory, 17(1), 1999, pp. 68-101. doi:10.1111/0735­

3 J. Delcourt, « Flexibility: A source of new rights for workers? », in G. Spyropoulos (Ed.), Trade unions today and tomorrow, Maastricht, Presses Interuniversitaires Européennes, 1985, pp. 145-166.

4 B. Appay, « Précarisation sociale et restructurations productives », in B. Appay & A. Thébaud-Mony 2751.00065. (Eds.), Précarisation sociale, travail et santé, Paris, IRESCO, 1997, pp. 509-554.

5 D. Carrico, « Precarity and Experimental Subjec­tion » (2007) Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2007/02/precarity-and­experimental-subjection.html.

6 L. Waite, « A Place and Space for a Critical Geo­graphy of Precarity? », in Geography Compass, 3(1), 2009, p. 416.

7 N. Ettlinger, « Precarity Unbound », in Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 32(3), 2007, p. 320.

8 S. Hausermann & H. Schwander, « Varieties of Dualization? Labor Market Segmentation and Insider-Outsider DividesAcross Regimes », in P. Emmenegger et al. (Eds.), The Age of Dualization: The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 27-51.

9 A. Mattoni & M. Vogiatzoglou, « Today, We are Precarious. Tomorrow, We Will be Unbeatable. Early Struggles of Precarious Workers in Italy and Greece », in D. Chabanet & F. Royal (Eds.), From Silence to Protest: International Perspectives on Weakly Resourced Groups, Farnham, Ashgate (forthcoming).

10 A. Mattoni & M. Vogiatzoglou, op. cit.; M. Pedaci, « The Flexibility Trap: Temporary Jobs and Precarity as a Disciplinary Mechanism », in WorkingUSA, 13(2), 2010, p. 245-262; A. L. Kalleberg, « Nonstandard Employment Relations and Labour Market Inequa­lity: Cross National Patterns », in G. Therbon (Ed.), Inequalities of the world, London, Verso, 2006, pp. 136-162.

11 R. Rizza, « Trasformazioni del lavoro, nuove forme di precarizzazione lavorativa e politiche di welfare: alcune riflessioni preliminari », in Roberto Rizza (Ed.). Politiche del Lavoro e Nuove Forme di Precarizzazione Lavorativa, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2000, p. 13-27; L. Wacquant, Punishing the poor: the neoliberal government of social insecurity, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2009.

12 J. Faniel, « Trade Unions and the Unemployed: Towards a Dialectical Approach », in Interface. A Journal for and about Social Movements, 4(2), 2012, pp. 130-157.

13 F. F. Piven & R. A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements. Why They Succeed, How They Fail, New York, Pantheon Books, 1977; A. Richards, « Mobilizing the Powerless: Collective Protest Action of the Unemployed in the Interwar Period », Estudio/Working Paper 2002/175, February 2002, Juan March Institut, Madrid; S. Baglioni et al., « Transcending Marginalization: The Mobilization of the Unemployed in France, Germany, and Italy in a Comparative Perspective », in Mobilization. An International Quarterly, 13(3), September 1, 2008, pp. 323-335; D. della Porta, « Protest on Unemployment: Forms and Opportunities », in Mobilization. An International Quarterly, 13(3), September 1, 2008, pp. 277-295.

14 D. Chabanet, « Les marches européennes contre le chômage, la précarité et les exclusions », in R. Balme, D. Chabanet & V. Wright, L’action collective en Europe. Collective Action in Europe, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po., 2002, pp. 461-493.

15 A. Mattoni, Media Practices and Protest Politics. How Precarious Workers Mobilise, Farnham,Ashgate, 2012; J. J. Chun, Organizing at the Margins. The Sym­bolic Politics of Labor in South Korea and the United States, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2009; A. Allison, « The Cool Brand, Affective Activism and Japanese Youth », in Theory, Culture & Society, 26(2­3), 2009, pp. 89-111.

16 B. Baumgarten, « Geração à Rasca and beyond: Mobilizations in Portugal after 12 March 2011 », in Current Sociology, 61(4), 2013, pp. 457-473; O. Par-van, « It all started with a siege: what happened in Italy on October 18th and 19th », in through europe (2013) Available at: http://th-rough.eu/writers/parvan-eng/it-all-started-siege-what-happened-italy-october-18th­and-19th [Accessed November 09, 2013].

17 J.Atkinson, Flexibility, Uncertainty and Manpower Management, Institute of Manpower Studies (Univer­sity of Sussex), 89, 1984; C. Wallace, « Work Flex­ibility in Eight European countries: A cross-national comparison », in Czech Sociological Review, 39(6), 2003, pp. 773-794.

18 Christos A. Ioannou, « Change and continuity in Greek industrial relations: the role of and impact on trade unions », in Jeremy Waddington & Reiner Hoffmann (Eds.), Trade unions in Europe: facing chal­lenges and searching for solutions, Brussel, European Trade Union Institute, 2000, pp. 277-304.

19 K. Tsoukalas, State, Society and Labour in Post-War Greece, Athens, Themelio, 1987.

20 It is important to note that these tools were introduced in an oppressive and restrictive political environment, imposed by the victorious anti­communist forces of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that any “social contracts” or pacts of the period mentioned above would have a priori excluded a significant part of the Greek workforce – the one associated with the civil war losers.

21 G. Bedani, Politics and Ideology in the Italian Workers’ Movement, London, Berg Publishers, 1995 (ch. 7 & 10).

22 Presidenza del consiglio dei Ministri, La Costi­tuzione della Repubblica Italiana (2013). governo.it. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from http://www.governo.it/ Governo/Costituzione/principi.html

23 The Workers’statute is the fundamental Italian labor legislative text, where, as most authors acknowledge, “the workers’ rights are its central concern. The rights and duties of unions are firmly conditional on those of the workers.” (Bedani, op. cit., p. 165.)

24 L. Gallino, Il lavoro non è una merce. Contro la flessibilità, Roma, Laterza, 2007.

25 E. Milo, The changes in the labor relations’status of state-controlled companies: The case of OTE, Pan­teion University of Social and Political Sciences, 2009.

26 OECD, OECD. StatExtracts. OECD. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from http://stats.oecd.org

27 . Ibid.

28 INE-GSEE, Greek economy and employment - an­nual report 2011, Athens, 2011.

29 OECD, op. cit.

30 INE-GSEE, op. cit., p. 241.

31 L. M. Kahn, « Labor Market Policy: A Compara­tive View on the Costs and Benefits of Labor Market Flexibility », in Journal of Policy Analysis and Mana­gement, 31(1), 2012, pp. 94-110.

32 OECD, op. cit.

33 OECD, op. cit.

34 G. Bronzini, « Il precariato e la giustizia del lavoro », in AA. VV. (Ed.), Gli insubordinati. Viaggio nella metropoli del lavoro precario, Roma, Manifestolibri,

35 P. Emmenegger et al., « How We Grow More Un­equal », in P. Emmenegger et al. (Eds.), op. cit., p. 10.

36 OECD, « Population, employment (national con­cept), employment by industry (domestic concept): Greece », in Quarterly National Accounts, 2013.

37 K. Györffy, « Italy Unemployment Rate » (Re­trieved November 14, 2013, from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/italy/unemployment-rate).

38 OECD, OECD.StatExtracts. OECD. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from http://stats.oecd.org.

39 N. Fontes, « Italy Growth Rate » (Retrieved No­vember 14, 2013, from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/italy/gdp-growth).

40 A. Mattoni, op. cit.; N. Doerr & A. Mattoni, « Public spaces and alternative media networks in Europe: The case of the Euro Mayday Parade against precarity », in R. Werenskjold, K. Fahlenbrach et E. Sivertsen (Eds.), The Revolution Will Not Be Televised? Media and Protest Movements, New York, Berghahn Books (forthcoming 2014).

41 A. Mattoni, « Serpica Naro and the others. The

social media experience in the Italian precarious work­ers struggles », in Portal, 5(2), 2008 (Available at: http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/ojs/index.php/portal/issue/view/35/showToc.); M. Tarì & I. Vanni, « On the Life and Deeds of San Precario, Patron Saint of Precarious Workers and Lives », in The Fibreculture Journal, 5, 2005 (Available at: http://www.journal.fibreculture.org/issue5/vanni_tari.html.).

42 A. Mattoni, Media Practices and Protest Politics. How Precarious Workers Mobilise, Farnham,Ashgate, 2012.

43 A. Mattoni, op. cit.

44 J. Kouzis, The characteristics of the Greek Union Movement, Athens, Gutenberg, 2007.

45 A. Mattoni & M. Vogiatzoglou, op. cit.

46 Quoted in: M. Vogiatzoglou, Precarious Workers’ Unions in the Greek Syndicalist Movement, University of Crete, 2010, pp. 59-60.

47 L. Turner, « Introduction: An urban resurgence of social unionism », in L. Turner & D. B. Cornfield (Eds.), Labor in the new urban battlegrounds: Local solidarity in a global economy, New York, Cornell University Press, 2007, pp. 1-18.

48 M. Vogiatzoglou, op. cit.

49 N. Doerr & A. Mattoni, op. cit.

50 A. Mattoni, op. cit.

51 J. Fine, « Community Unions and the Revival of theAmerican Labor Movement », in Politics & Society, 33(1), 2005, pp. 153-199.

52 Redazione Precaria, « Chi siamo », Rete Redattori Precari (2008) Available at: http://www.rerepre.org/ index.php?/2008121048/redattori-editoriali-precari/redattori-editoriali-precari-chi-siamo.html [Accessed November 14, 2013].

53 Redattori Sociali, « Apri gli occhi ! Questa cultura rende schiavi ! », Rete Redattori Precari Available at : http://rerepre.org [Accessed November 14, 2013].

54 S. Pazienza, « Fra Quello Dei Nemici Scrivi Anche Il Tuo Nome. Redattori Editoriali: Prove Di Autorganizzazione », in Quaderni Di San Precario, 5(1), 2013, p. 116.

55 Officine Zero, Pazza Idea - Press Release Officine Zero - June 2013 (transl. by the authors).

56 See, for example, the 6-months occupation of the Altec Telecoms call-center, the 1-week occupation of all the Altec offices in Athens by their workers, the blockades of the Wind and Vodafone Telecommuni­cations’ companies during strikes and the blockades of Pizza Hut stores as early as in the beginning of the 2000s.

57 C. Crouch, Trade Unions: The Logic of Collective Action, Glascow, Fontana Press, 1982, p. 3.

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Alice Mattoni et Markos Vogiatzoglou, « Italy and Greece, before and after the crisis: between mobilization and resistance against precarity  », Quaderni, 84 | 2014, 57-71.

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Alice Mattoni et Markos Vogiatzoglou, « Italy and Greece, before and after the crisis: between mobilization and resistance against precarity  », Quaderni [En ligne], 84 | Printemps 2014, mis en ligne le 05 mai 2016, consulté le 21 juillet 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/quaderni/805 ; DOI : 10.4000/quaderni.805

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Auteurs

Alice Mattoni

Chercheuse
European University Institute, Florence

Markos Vogiatzoglou

Doctorant
European University Institute, Florence

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