After months of heated negotiations the Italian government has finally reached a deal with unions over public sector wages.The accord comes just in time to stave off a general strike without breaking the budget. The 5.01 per cent average pay rise is well above the government’s original offer. Union chief, Guglielmo Epifani, said the deal was fair and hoped civil servants would feel its effect immediately. Epifani said the accord would not have been acheived without “fights and strikes”. Many of Italy’s 3.5 million public sector workers have demonstrated over recent months in favour of a pay rise, and a mass walkout had been planned for June. The deal will cost Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government about 7 billion euros.