It has been described as the most polluted town in Europe. Now local prosecutors have closed down much of the ILVA steel works in Taranto in southern Italy in a probe into whether chemicals spilling from the plant are behind high cancer rates. Eight ILVA executives have been put under house arrest.
According to some figures, the town is responsible for 92 percent of the dioxin in Italy and 8.8 percent of all the dioxin in Europe. And Brussels has had its eye on the ILVA factory for some time.
But the plant’s 12,000 workers are furious that their jobs are now in jeopardy and immediately started an open ended strike.
“We have to protect our jobs, the environment too, but we can’t let them close the plant. That’s not the way to go,” said one.
“We don’t know when we’ll get back to work. People who’ve invested their lives in this plant don’t know what they’re going to do now or what to say to their families,” added another.
Unions said about 5,000 people have joined the protest so far and police said workers had blocked highways and two bridges leading to Taranto.
The government said it is moving to put in place a 336-million-euro clean-up programme for Taranto, with the environment minister insisting the town’s output and port activity should be sustained.