Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has promised that signs of economic recovery will emerge in the next new months.
His prediction came as tens of thousands of union workers rallied in central Rome on Saturday against policies which they warn are making ordinary Italians poorer.
Monti may have saved Italy from bankruptcy but critics say billions of euros of public sector cuts won’t help build growth.
“Strict austerity, where you just look at balance sheets and interest rates, has not only failed but is the main culprit for our country’s difficulties,” said Susanna Camusso, General Secretary for the CGIL union, in a speech to members.
Demonstrators included steelworkers, craftsmen and construction crews who said they were being hit hardest as companies laid off staff and Italians reined in their spending.
One protester told a TV crew:
“I’m retired. I take home 800 euros per month. It’s terrible. The Monti government has ruined my life. They should take money from senators and ministers, not from us. We’re poor pensioners?”
Saturday’s rally was the latest in a string of protests against tax hikes and welfare cuts.
Italian unions say their members will march once again on November 14, the same day other European unions plan widespread action.