Reuters: “Italy began a week of strikes by the three biggest labor unions against Prime Minister Mario Monti’s 33-billion-euro austerity package, which the government may soften slightly to meet some of their demands. Port, highway, and haulage personnel stopped work for three hours and metal workers — including those at carmaker Fiat — put down their tools for eight hours. Printing press operators stopped for a full shift and most newspapers won’t publish on Tuesday.”
Public transport strikes are scheduled for Dec 15-16th. (Reuters). Bank employees will halt work for the afternoon of Dec 16th, and public services will close down for Dec 19th. For the first time in six years of division, the three main union leaders shared a stage together when they spoke to striking workers in front of parliament. "We’re not giving up on the idea that the austerity package must be changed," Susanna Camusso, chief of the largest labor group Cgil, told the crowd. "It hurts workers, pensions and the country as a whole," she said. (Reuters).
"We are here to show our opposition towards the new economic measures that the new government is putting together," said Sergio Bussone, one of the striking union members in the capital. "These measures punish public sector workers, and will be harmful and negative for all the pensioners."
Reuters said that yields on Italian 10-year bonds exceeded the “critical“ 7% level. On Dec 4th, Monti introduced a raft of measures including pension reform and hikes in property tax, sales tax and petrol tax. Borrowing costs fell ahead of last week’s EU summit but have since risen above 6.8% on Monday, after the summit failed to provide an immediate solution to the euro zone debt crisis.
ECB intervention helped yields back to 6.6%. To meet demands from both unions and parties, the government is seeking other revenue sources or spending cuts to alleviate cuts to low pensions and to give property-tax exemptions to low-income families.
Reuters said that the total cost of both moves would be 5 billion euros. Italian lawmakers pushed back the deadline to amend the package by 24 hours to late Tuesday.
Source: Full Article – Italy starts strikes against Monti’s austerity, by Giuseppe Fonte, Francesca Piscioneri, Cristiano Corvino, and Steve Scherer; editing by Philippa Fletcher, Reuters -