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Hundreds of port workers in Italy are striking against a new vaccine mandate

A man holds a sign that reads "no green pass," with the Italian word for "Liberty" underneath.
Reuters/Borut Zivulovic
Protesting at the port.
By Courtney Vinopal
Published Last updated

Italy’s new covid-19 rules went into effect on Oct. 15, prompting labor strikes and protests across the country. The mandate, one of the strictest in the world, requires employees in the public and private sectors to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or recovery from the virus in order to go to work. Those who don’t comply may be fined up to €1,500, or $1,760.

The measure, which was approved by prime minister Mario Draghi’s government on Sept. 16, aims to boost vaccinations among a population that has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Italy’s Lombardy province suffered the worst outbreak in Europe last March, and the country has the second-highest death toll in the continent after the UK.

Since the measure was announced, the country’s vaccination rate has risen by 4 percentage points, according to Our World in Data, with 70% of Italian adults now fully vaccinated. Recent polling by the country’s Catholic University found that 56% of Italians support the so-called “Green Pass.” But while most citizens have gotten on board with it, some workers remain skeptical.

Trieste port blocked by workers, protesters

Hundreds of workers gathered at the Port of Trieste in northeastern Italy to protest the new mandate. The port, which managed more than 50 million tons of cargo last year, is one of the country’s biggest centers for shipping and transport.

Stefano Puzzer, a local union official, told Reuters that around 40% of Trieste’s port workers are not vaccinated. One port worker told the wire service he believed the mandate was tantamount to “discrimination under the law.”

Other workers objected to the fact that the government will not pay for covid-19 swab tests, which will be required every two days for employees that remain unvaccinated. Italy’s government has said they will keep tests priced at €15, below the typical cost of such services.

Port workers in Trieste were joined by protesters that numbered into the thousands, according to local reports. Despite the labor strike and the crowds, regional governor Massimiliano Fedriga told SkyTG24 that the port was still operating. Workers at the port of Genoa protested the Green Pass as well, and smaller protests were reported in Turin and Bologna.

Italy’s mandate is a test for Europe

In implementing the strictest public health measures against the virus thus far, Italy may serve as a litmus test for other European countries considering similar mandates for workers. Some of Italy’s neighbors are already facing pushback—France suspended 3,000 healthcare workers on Sept. 16 after they failed to comply with a covid-19 vaccine requirement. But Slovenia had better luck with its mandate for government workers, with over half of its adult population becoming fully vaccinated since the policy took effect.

The Green Pass may be a headache for employers, but it hasn’t posed much of a problem for Italians looking to take vacation. Rather than cancel their plans, travelers complied with the mandate over the summer, with 23 million Italians booking hotel rooms and vacation rentals in the country, a boost from the previous two years.

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