Even in Italy, tech workers are organizing themselves

Even in Italy, tech workers are organizing themselves

Even in Italy

Incessant pace of work, subcontracting, lower wages. The Tech workers coalition also in Italy lifts the veil on the working conditions of the digital supply chain

(Photo by Sergei KonkovTASS via Getty Images) Every day a new app to download, a site to scroll down, a platform to discover. Behind the software we use every day there is the work of numerous tech workers and their days can hide incessant work rhythms, subcontracts, lower wages, precariousness and frustration. Even in Italy, there are those who denounce it. They are programmers, developers, engineers, systems engineers, graphic designers and copywriters, the tech workers: this is how the workers of the Italian section of the Tech worker coalition (Twc) organization are defined, a network already active in the United States, in Europe in London, Amsterdam and Berlin, and India.

The funds for the digitization of the country envisaged by the Recovery and Resilience Plan amount to approximately 40 billion euros for the IT sector. What forms and objectives the dedicated work will follow, however, is yet to be discovered. Related doubts have already been expressed by tech workers: to date, in fact, the IT work environment is still affected by criticized practices such as the so-called body rental and the tricks found by consulting agencies, under which workers "loaned" to one or more are hiding customers. The increase in tasks and the resulting hours of work are often a stimulus for alienation, anxieties and little recognition in wages, lack of training, as a continuous feeling of precariousness, if not mental health problems, depression or burnout.

The campaigns of the association

The first moves of the IT workers' movement in Italy are passing through here: Tech worker coalition Italia presented the first Raise your head campaign at the end of 2020 , in these days returns with Let's open eyes, aimed in particular at young graduates, who are soon incorporated into dynamics often without previous preparation to approach the world of work. The group's goal remains to bring knowledge and attention to the context and tools of a labor market like the Italian one, linked in practice, but economically and legally distant from Silicon Valley, which many continue to look at in a mythical way.

First of all, by tech worker we mean different occupations. “Our types of contracts are very varied and are often national collective agreements for the trade or engineering sector and in some cases for communication. Apprenticeships and traineeships also abound. But self-employment with VAT numbers is also very widespread, both in the form of parasubordinate employment relationships and in the form of freelancing ", explains to Wired one of the representatives of Twc Italy, who prefers to remain anonymous in order to contribute to this article.

Payroll and discrimination

"To give figures - he continues - a developer with no particular experience but with a degree in Milan can have a gross annual salary (Ral, ed) between 22 and 27 thousand euros. With other types of training and outside the big cities, you can easily start much less. Career progression raises salaries, especially in the early years and then decreases after the age of 40-45 for those who do not make a transition to less technical positions. Discrimination towards the over 40s is a determining factor. "Downward competition, customers in default in payments, bureaucratic and tax difficulties are added, similarly to other sectors (especially self-employment), to the complaints spread daily. Like, for example, the work practice that sees the quantity of shares as priority and not their quality.

It is not only the salary that is at the center of the organization's criticisms, but other factors such as the amount of overtime - which sometimes exceeds 8 office hours - and availability, required continuously at all hours of the day. “It can be said that working conditions are the first concern, perhaps even before the salary, which is often enough to make it to the end of the month. But at what price? ”, Says the source.

Body rental in the crosshairs

The claims of the Tech workers coalition focus on rights and contracts. “We demand more restrictive measures against body rental (in general, disguised advice, ed), we demand that they be applied, and that the perverse economic incentive system that feeds it is progressively dismantled. From above by the institutions and from below by the workers. Secondly, we fight against all those bad business practices that dot the path of cognitive workers, from interview to severance pay: fake and inadequately paid internships, wage theft, violation of safety regulations, mobbing ", explains the source.

With body rental we refer to illegal work organization practices, governed by Legislative Decree 276 of 2003, better known as the Biagi Law, to which was added the text of law 138 of 2011, which delineates the crime of illicit intermediation and labor exploitation (the same that introduces the crime of illegal hiring). The Italian legislation thus establishes that only the employment agencies registered in the register can carry out the activity of labor intermediation (or rather allow the work of an employee for another company), but this principle is sometimes circumvented, by specifying in the contract, perhaps with indisputable legal terms, that the resource is "contracted out" only for certain tasks. The company that thus receives the worker's services saves on management and hiring costs.

The next steps

Although the organization is only a few months old, it already has a clear path to take. "For us it is important to expand the awareness of workers on the best quality standards of the workplace in terms of inclusiveness, training, work-life balance and on this basis individually and collectively advance claims to employers, in the hope, in the long term, to crystallize these results in regulations at the national level as they are starting to be seen in other countries, ”explains the source. One case is precisely the latest campaign aimed at universities: "We think there are spaces in which knowledge leads to change situations, recent graduates may have more room for maneuver, before working between consultancies and agencies, where they end up passively accepting all the distortions of Italian IT ".

Before interfacing with institutional representatives, the search for organized tech workers is to meet and talk about it, to build a community. “We speak above all to those who find themselves in body rental, loaned and then forgotten, through consultancy or by the company from which they are hired. But also to precarious workers, who manage to work on some website, or take orders on platforms like Fiverr (for freelance services, ed) ", they say from the association.

A new mobilization

And then there is the world of startups. “To them, for example, we propose cooperative models, alternatives to closed societies, to model shared ideas without the pressures of the market”, the Twc line. The first ideas are taking shape from the community that you meet online (from social networks to the Telegram group, and then on Zulip or Mastodon), such as providing other collateral organizations with technical coordination tools. “Expenses continue to soar, especially due to the incentives enjoyed by investment managers. But our work does not improve, on the contrary. We are preparing to witness a real explosion in the IT sector, we will be ready ", the promise.

In the wake of the new forms of unionization, the Italian case follows what is happening overseas and in European capitals, such as the example of Google workers with Alphabet Worker Union, or like those of gig workers in large multinationals (such as riders). Again, the experiments in Amazon - where union attempts to enter the American giant continue - and those with Kickstarter workers.

In Italy, 25th out of 28 countries in the latest Desi index (Digital economy and society index ) of the European Commission, the demand for IT personnel is growing: 600 thousand workers in the two-year period 2018-20, according to a study by the sector associations Aica, Anitec-Assinform, Assintel and Assinter in 2018.

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