Friday, June 25, 2010

Tens of thousands of Italian workers went on strike Friday, grounding flights and hampering the Rome metro

51591-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Soccer-Ball-Flying-In-Front-Of-A-Waving-Italy-Flag MILAN (AFP)--Tens of thousands of Italian workers went on strike Friday, grounding flights and hampering the Rome metro, in a protest against austerity cuts ordered by the conservative government. Italy's biggest union, the CGIL, which called the strike, said more than 1 million workers took to the streets across cities in Italy, with 100,000 in the northern city of Bologna and 70,000 in the southern city of Naples. It said that by midday more than 80 flights had been canceled at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Subway lines came to a halt in Rome and Naples for four hours, with some buses not circulating in the two cities. In Milan, the three subway lines ran normally, according to the city's transport company. Workers on ferries to Italy's numerous islands, ports operators and highway tollbooth workers also went on strike for four hours, while truckers were urged to strike all day. "No one denies that an austerity plan is necessary, but we need a plan that is fair and forward looking, not just spending cuts," CGIL number two Susanna Camusso told a rally in Bologna. The government downplayed the impact of the protest. "I hope this strike will be the last one of this season, given the low participation," Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi said. Italy's Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said only 1.9% of civil servants took part in the strike, according to calculations based on a sample of 10% of public administration workers. In a bid to clean up public finances and reassure the markets, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government last month approved EUR24.9 billion of austerity cuts for 2011 and 2012. The measures are expected to bring the deficit down to 2.7% of output in 2012--within the 3% required by the European Union--from the current 5.3%. Rail transport experienced slight disruption, but national rail operator Trenitalia said trains would run regularly over medium and long-range distances. Workers in the northern regions of Piedmont and Liguria and the central Tuscany region will go on strike July 2. Italy's two other large unions, CISL and UIL, which have approved the cuts, didn't join the strike. Click here to go to Dow Jones NewsPlus, a web front page of today's most important business and market news, analysis and commentary: You can use this link on the day this article is published and the following day.

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