‘Disabled staff member won’t lose job’: Nestlé

Nestlé said on Thursday that a disabled staff member in Italy, who was initially sacked for publicly criticizing company managers over Facebook, will no longer lose her job.

'Disabled staff member won’t lose job': Nestlé
Photo: Starlight/Wikimedia Commons

The decision was made during talks with union leaders from the Umbria branch of Fai-Cisl on Thursday, the company said in a statement.

Marilena Petruccioli, who works at the company's Perugina plant in Perugia, will instead be subjected to a disciplinary measure, rather than be dismissed, after a compromise was reached with the union.

Nestlé Italy said that the company and union fully agreed that food safety and hygiene standards are "non-negotiable" values of the company, with both sides recognizing the "inappropriateness of Petruccioli’s social media comments, because they could send out a misleading message about the importance of food safety".

The offence took place on October 30th, when Marilena Petruccioli posted a message on her Facebook page expressing her disgust after reading a disciplinary note from “the head of personnel” at "this company" in which the person purportedly compared a member of staff to a dog.

Petruccioli said in the post that the manager should be "put under review" for using the word 'collare', meaning 'dog collar', in reference to a foreman who had been disciplined for flouting health and safety rules at the company's factory in Perugia, La Repubblica reported.

"'Il collare' is worn by dogs, not people," she wrote. "Certain people who hold certain roles should be careful about the terms they use in certain official actions."

Although Pertuccioli, who is also a union representative for staff at factory, didn’t name the company, she was dismissed earlier this month for "publicly attacking the company’s personnel managers".

Nestlé Italy said in a statement on Wednesday that Pertuccioli had "ridiculed" company managers on social media for their efforts in "enforcing stringent sanitation and security measures” in order to “protect workers, products and customers."

The company added that the disciplinary action referred to in the message was taken against a factory foreman for not wearing appropriate overalls while working on a production line.

It said the public comments had “undermined the authority” of those in charge of enforcing health and safety regulations.

“From a trade union representative, who has the responsibility of representing hundreds of people working in the largest plant of the Nesté group in Italy, we expected support and not criticism of efforts to ensure safety in the workplace.”

Pertuccioli has been working for the company since 1996 and was placed under Italy’s “protected” workers category after becoming disabled following a workplace accident in 1997.

Dario Bruschi, the president of Fai-Cisl Umbria, claimed the Facebook post referred to something that "happened in another company" and "that a series of circumstances might have led to the belief that it referred to Nestlé-Perugina".

But Nestlé Italy dismissed the claim, saying it "was misleading to attempt to represent and minimize the repeated comments of Mrs Petruccioli as being unrelated, or related to the context where she works." 

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Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers

Italy has hit out at Switzerland for failing to prevent foreign skiers from hitting the slopes. Some have gone so far as to blame Switzerland for the spread of virus mutations across Europe.

Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers
The mighty Matterhorn lies on the border with Italy. Photo by AFP
Italy's government last week blocked ski resorts from reopening, the day before skiing was due to be allowed for the first time this winter season due to coronavirus restrictions.
There is also a ban on non-essential travel until February 25th.

“It's a disaster. For a week now, we have been readying the slopes for the opening and preparing the health protocol,” said Denis Trabucchi, an Italian ski instructor. 

But the ban has not stopped Italian snow enthusiasts from hitting the slopes on the Swiss side of the border, as Switzerland has kept its ski infrastructure open despite the pandemic.

Many Swiss and Italian pistes lie close to each other so it is an easy commute from one resort to another.

The mayors of Italian border towns are annoyed that local skiers are ‘emigrating’ to Swiss ski slopes, according to the Provincio di Como newspaper.

“Cross-border skiers are not as numerous as cross-border workers, of course, but ski traffic has increased,” said Massimiliano Tam, mayor of Villa di Chiavenna, a town in Lombardy.

He said that despite bans on such border hopping, many Italians rent apartments on the Swiss side of the frontier so they can ski.

Roberto Galli, the mayor of Livigno, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, is also livid at the “cross-border ski mobility”.

“Customs controls are really limited” he said, calling for more rigorous checks “especially for Italian cars with ski racks and snow on the roof”.

Italian authorities even went as far as blaming Switzerland for the spread of the pandemic across Europe. 

Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Italian government's coronavirus task force, said Switzerland's decision to keep ski slopes open throughout winter, while neighbouring countries shut down theirs, allowed the British strain of coronavirus to arrive on the continent.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

A similar situation occurred in December, when French skiers tried to sneak into Switzerland to ski.

France’s authorities quickly announced that French residents heading abroad to ski would have to self-isolate for seven days on return and that border checks would be stepped up in certain areas. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter?