Italy: Huge march against austerity, for jobs

October 22, 2013

Demonstrators clashed with police on October 19 as tens of thousands marched through Rome to protest against the government's intensifying austerity program.

They chanted slogans against unemployment and government cuts to benefits and social housing programs. Many camped throughout the night in front of the Infrastructure Ministry.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta's 2014 budget, which was unveiled on October 15, has become a focus of huge discontent. Trade unions are campaigning against freezes on public-sector salaries and there is little sign of a hoped-for easing of the tax burden on workers.

Unemployment is running at an all-time high of 12.2 %, with the youth jobless rate at an incredible 40.1%.

Organisers said at least 70,000 people had joined the march that started in Piazza San Giovanni and proceeded through the city.

The demonstrators held up banners against unemployment, lack of affordable housing and the planned TAV high-speed train link to France. Opponents of the train project say the money to build the line should have instead been used to help the poor and the unemployed.

Matteo, a 20-year-old student from the eastern Marche region, said: “This protest is to demand basic rights -— a job paying a wage and adequate housing.

“All the most downtrodden people are here to protest — unemployed people, students, immigrants and workers without job security.”

At least 4000 police were called out to control the demonstration.

The protest followed hard on the heels of action the day before by transport unions. A 24-hour nationwide strike caused airports in Rome, Naples, Milan and Bologna to cancel some flights. Some school and health workers also went on strike.

Unions organised the strike to protest against austerity measures reducing transport budgets. A 600-strong protest was also staged by transport workers in Milan.

[Abridged from Morning Star.]

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