Italy: Strike, Nationwide Protests Against Latest Austerity Budget

Fire-fighters holding flags of the USB trade union association are reflected in the helmet of a fellow fire-fighter during a protest against the government in downtown Rome October 18, 2013. Civil servants, hospital staff and transport workers went on strike on Friday, in the first of two days of planned protests against Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government, causing disruptions in Rome and across the country. Letta’s 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient easing of the tax burden on workers. (Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)A twenty-four hour strike accompanied large-scale protests in Italy on Friday, as transportation workers and angry citizens marched against the continued austerity policies found in the government’s latest budget proposals.

Centered in Rome, where more than 20,000 estimated protesters gathered, the anti-austerity movement and union organizers say that increased cuts are stifling economic recovery and doing long-term damage to Italian workers and their families.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

Thousands of people protested against economic austerity in Rome Friday as partial transport strikes across the country cancelled dozens of flights and snarled buses and trains.

Italy is struggling to shake off a two-year recession that has pushed unemployment to record highs and parliament is discussing a draft budget for next year that includes more cuts.

“We’re giving money to the bankers! We’re like a car going down a cliff,” Paolo Ferrero, leader of the Communist Refoundation party, said at a demonstration by the USB union association in Rome.

Firefighters, steel workers, civil servants and students were among a few thousand people who took part in the protest march through central Rome.

Demonstrators gather in Rome’s Piazza San Giovanni. (Photo: Getty images)And Euronews adds:

As part of the protest, a transport strike was called in the city. It hit trains, buses and Rome’s airport, forcing easyJet to cancel 56 flights.

One protester told euronews: “I’m here to protest because it’s always the same people paying for the crisis, always the workers. It has been happening for many, many years. Centre right, centre left. All the measures, liberal or social democratic, have all been unsuccessful.”

The hostile domestic reaction to Italy’s budget may pose a new threat to the stability of Enrico Letta’s government, just weeks after the prime minister defeated Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to topple him.

A further general anti-austerity protest is expected on Saturday in Rome.

Demonstrators applaud during the left-wing Italian metalworkers’ union FIOM rally in downtown Rome Piazza San Giovanni on May 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)EN also posted this video:

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