Workers are downing tools and pouring onto the streets in the fifth general strike since Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi took office. Rallies were being staged in 70 towns and cities. Unions are angry at big tax cuts planned for next year which they say will unfairly favour the rich and offer little help to workers who are feeling the pinch after years of meagre economic growth. Travellers are at the sharp end of the industrial action with buses, trains and planes going nowhere fast.
But the walkout goes further. Doctors are among those on strike and hospitals are providing only emergency services. Post offices and government offices will be closed all day. Previous general strikes against Berlusconi opposed labour market and pension reform, both of which have since passed into law. But this time round, the prime minister isn’t only facing opposition from the country’s workers. Industry is no great fan of the tax cuts either with employers complaining they are economically ineffective and simply aimed at winning votes.