Police clashed with protesters dressed as Santa Claus in Milan as Italian workers staged a general strike.
It is the first ever national strike by two of Italy’s biggest trade union confederations. It has brought basic services to a halt, and seen marches in some 50 cities.
Unions are angry at Prime MInister Renzi’s reform plans, which they say will erode their rights.
In Rome demonstrators ran along streets chanting and beating drums.
“The latest choices of this government have been dramatic, and instead of building a future, as they declare, what we actually fear is that this future is becoming more and more like a black hole,” said one elderly woman.
“The state doesn’t want us to think freely, but wants us to be like little soldiers who say ‘yes sir’ to the government laws, and I am fed up of being quiet,” said a student.
Renzi is leading a centre-left government, traditionally close to the unions., but they have been angered by his recipe of spending and tax cuts, and his Jobs Bill they claim is anything but. The unions have been bolstered by student organisations. Public transport in particular has been badly affected, hitting Italians and stranded tourists alike.
“I think it should be solved without strikes. It’s better for the country, the country will
make more money, the more you strike the less money the country makes and the more it affects the country. So I don’t think it’s a good idea to strike,” said a South African tourist.
Renzi is in Turkey on a trip to encourage bilateral trade, where he called on the unions to help prevent an erosion of the Italian economy, and reiterated he would not back down.