Italy’s parliament has approved a landmark labour reform which loosens the country’s rigid employment laws.
The move bolsters Prime Minister Mario Monti’s position has he heads for the Brussels summit.
But the legislation is highly contentious as it makes firing workers easier.
Outside parliament unions held a rally opposing the changes – the concept of a job for life has been enshrined in Italian law since the 1970s.
One protester said: “We are not the ones who should be held responsible yet we are the ones who are paying and those who caused all this; the banks and those working in the financial sector keep getting rewards.”
“A general strike has to be organised and without delay because many people with this reform will lose their jobs,” added another.
The new law which is a bid to make the labour market more competitive are a condition required by the ECB if it’s to buy Italian government bonds.
While the changes also include broadening unemployment benefits, unions anticipate increased lay-offs.