Italy Unions, Businesses Agree to Worker Virus Protections

Italian unions and business representatives signed an accord to protect workers nationwide from the spread of the coronavirus in a bid to keep at least some production up and running.

“It is a primary objective to combine the continuation of production activities with the guarantee of conditions of health and safety in the workplace and working methods,” according to a decree announcing the measures.

The agreement addresses activities including access to companies by workers and suppliers, personal hygiene, protection equipment, management of common areas and working shifts, travel, meetings and production levels. It provides for a temporary suspension of production to improve protections.

The accord was hammered out in an overnight session between labor and business leaders and the government, Annamaria Furlan, secretary general of the CISL union, said in a statement. Italy’s other two main unions, CGIL and UIL, also signed the accord.

“It was a long night of discussion, but in the end a sense of common responsibility and positive unity prevailed that will lead us to adopt all those extraordinary and urgent solutions,” Furlan said.

Italy has the world’s second-highest number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus, with more than 15,000 known infections and more than 1,000 deaths. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a nationwide lockdown on March 9, making Italy the first country to implement such a measure.

The premier said on Saturday the parties reached agreement on the worker protections “after 18 hours of long and thorough discussion.”

The deal comes as supercar maker Ferrarihalted all production in Italy until March 27, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The new protocols “must now be implemented in all companies and in all workplaces” to contain the spread of coronavirus and to protect the health and safety of workers “also using a period of suspension of production and activities,” Furlan said.

Conte’s cabinet will meet later on Saturday or on Sunday to discuss measures including a moratorium on some mortgage payments, support for workers facing temporary layoffs and 200 million euros ($222 million) for the airline sector including Alitalia SpA, according to press reports. Earlier this week, the government said it’s ready to spend as much as 25 billion euros on stimulus measures to shield the economy from the outbreak of the coronavirus.

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