Italy reeled under the impact of a general strike on June 25 as trade unionists and their allies took to the streets to defend the welfare state against the Berlusconi government’s plans to slash public spending by about $36 billion.
Transport workers led the action. Bus, tube and rail services were paralysed for four hours throughout the country.
Airline employees, car workers and public-sector staff joined major demonstrations in Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s far-right coalition wants to freeze public-sector wages for three years and reduce state investment in schools and hospitals.
The Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), which called the strike, said the cuts will hit the most vulnerable working people and it is pressing the government to do more to stimulate growth.
But Berlusconi is adamant that the budget cuts are an essential part of EU efforts to save the euro.
Friday's stoppage followed union-led protests in France and Greece this week against plans to raise the retirement age and slash spending on social services.
Right-wing and some social democratic governments in the 16 eurozone states have rushed to approve the regressive measures in a bid to restore bankers’ confidence in the common currency and halt “contagion” from Greece’s debt crisis.
On June 24, hundreds of thousands protested in France against raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 by 2018.
Though European right-wingers are leading the charge for cuts, the US government urged caution and warned that dampening demand would prolong the economic slump.
In advance of the June 26-27 G20 summit in Toronto, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso suggested that EU member states could no longer afford to borrow.
“There is no more room for deficit spending," Barroso claimed.
[Abridged from www.Morningstaronline.co.uk .]