Union leader killed in Italy when truck runs picket line

by The Associated Press (APR)

A labour union leader was killed in northern Italy when a truck apparently broke through a picket line outside a supermarket warehouse facility Friday and struck him.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi expressed sorrow for the death of Adil Belakhdim, 37, and said “it’s necessary that light is immediately shed on what happened.”

Worker dragged

According to Italian news reports and union officials, about 20 people who work in logistics for the international supermarket chain Lidl were protesting outside the facility when a truck driver trying to leave the facility drove through a line of picketers blocking a gate. An unidentified witness told Italian state TV the vehicle struck Belakhdim and dragged him for several yards.

Italian media said the driver sped away from the scene in the municipality of Biandrate. While initial reports said the driver was stopped by police on a nearby highway, the LaPresse news agency later said that the driver stopped at a tollbooth on the highway and called Carabinieri paramilitary police.

Officers from a Carabinieri station in the nearby city of Novara came for the driver, who was jailed for investigation of alleged vehicular homicide and failing to provide assistance to the union leader, LaPresse said.

Protesting working conditions

The picketers were pushing for better working conditions overall for those in the supermarket logistics sector, which generally includes packing and loading merchandise and food.

Two other protesters were also reported hit by the truck and suffered minor injuries.

LaPresse quoted a union leader, Attilio Fasulo, as calling for an immediate strike in the sector to protest what happened.

Fasulo described both the fatally injured union leader and the truck driver as “victims” of labour tensions in the logistics sector. He added that union officials “for some time have been asking for better working conditions.”

Lidl Italia issued a statement expressing condolences to Belakhdim’s family. It said the truck involved was from a third-party supplier and not one of Lidl’s vehicles.

As for the workers’ complaints, Lidl said “the company reiterates that it has always been in constant rapport with the main union organizations, aimed at dialogue and reciprocal comparison.”