Monday, April 20, 2009

Italy: Millions demand action against crisis

Lisbeth Latham

The streets of Rome were filled with 2.7 million red-flag waving protesters on April 4, many sinigng the famous anti-fascist song "Bella Ciao". The mass demonstration was organised by Italy's General Confederation of Labour (CGIL).

The protest rejected the handling of the economic crisis by the conservative Silvio Berlusconi government and condemned employer attempts to take away union collective bargaining rights.

The Italian economy has been hit hard by the economic crisis. The economy is expected to shrink by 2-3% this year. The CGIL estimates job losses may reach one million by mid-2010.

A large part of the Italian workforce are on temporary contracts with little job protection and no right to income support.

Already, many Italian workers survive on very low incomes. Italy's tax department said in April that 35% of Italians live on less than €10,000 a year.

In November, the Berlusconi government announced an €80 billion in government spending package to off-set the crisis.

However, much of this "spending" is not new, but simply recycles old spending commitments made by the government.

CGIL general secretary Guigliemlo Epifani told the rally that, in reality, the government was only spending an additional €4 billion.

The CGIL has called on the government to take serious action to stimulate the economy and act to protect jobs and the living conditions of retirees, pensioners and the unemployed.

Epifani warned the crowd the government was also fuelling racism against migrant workers.

Epifani said "there is too great a gap between what needs to be done and the government's actions", resulting in a "black hole that threatened to pull in workers, retirees and many businesses".

The rally also condemned the push from employers to end national collective bargaining agreements. Epifani called on the two other major Italian confederations, the Italian Labour Union and the Italian Confederation of Trade Unions, to unite in joint action to protect conditions.

This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly issue #791


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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