Port work and coronavirus: the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transports failed to provide clear directives
Each Port Authority interpreted the Government’s general directives independently, but not all workers are reassured: operations were suspended again at PSA Pra’ terminal in Genoa
Following the general recommendations of the Italian government concerning the sanitation of workplaces (“We recommend to encourage sanitation of workplaces, also using social security cushions”, reads the last Ministerial Decree governing coronavirus containment measures), the Italian Minister of Infrastructure and Transports did not provide any explanation about port operations, therefore Port Authorities had to decide independently.
In Trieste, secretary general Mario Sommariva explained that “following the decree, we updated our guidelines for the third time. Despite problems, operations continue almost regularly”. In Gioia Tauro, Port Authority extraordinary commissioner Andrea Agostinelli “urged the members of the hygiene and safety Committee to adopt a detailed protocol concerning the internal work organization of companies and to send a copy of it to the body within 24 hours in order to ascertain its feasibility”.
The Port Authority of Venice headed by Pino Musolino drew up new guidelines, urging terminal operators and port companies to “intensify the cleaning of workplaces”, including units’ cabins, but without providing details about the frequency or the products to be used.
In case of transfer of workers entrusted with the shuttling of new cars, Livorno ordered to “reduce the number of employees (not more than three or four) who can be present simultaneously inside the vans used to transport people”. It also provided for special measures related to shift changes: “The Port Authority will require each operator to make sure that common working areas are sanitized at every shift change and that hand sanitizers as well as gloves and masks are always available”.
Shift changes is a particularly significant issue in Genoa, where the most serious problems occurred, with breaches of the ordinary epidemic containment rules, to the detriment of road hauliers.
At the end of the second hygiene and safety Committee convened by the Ligurian Port Authority, the body announced that it will “draw up guidelines and precautionary measures to be adopted”. However, the request to order a reduction of the activities to terminal operators to ensure safety made by union trades was ignored.
They decreed the “implementation on the part of port companies of sanitation measures for both equipment and workplaces based on a criterion shared by health authorities (subject to a technical-scientific opinion)”. However, such criterion was not yet identified, while they formalized the direct involvement of port workers in the operations (“sanitation at the beginning of each shift on the part of workers with the sanitizers provided by companies”).
As a matter of fact, the dispute of the most important terminal in term of volumes, i.e. PSA Pra’, is still pending. According to Trade Unions representatives, the measures are insufficient and workers must suspend operations: “Since the sanitation of the units and of the company’s premises carried out in the past hours is effective only for the period of use of a single operator/employee, and consequently it should be carried out at each shift, and given the lack of additional prevention devices, we hereby announce that operations will be suspended immediately”.