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Strike-hit Italy to call austerity confidence vote

Strike-hit Italy to call austerity confidence vote
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Italy’s government is determined to press ahead with its austerity plans. But tens of thousands of striking workers, students and pensioners who took to the streets nationwide in demonstrations on Tuesday have other ideas.

And as a day-long strike saw scuffles between police and protesters denouncing spending cuts, Silvio Berlusconi’s administration tried new tactics.

It said it would call a confidence vote to push the 45 billion euro package through parliament. And, in moves that won’t appease public anger, it toughened its plans, vowing to raise VAT and introduce a constitutional balanced budget amendment. From 2014, it wants to delay retirement for women working in the private sector.

“I think Italian people are in a deep sleep. This demonstration is meant to wake them up because our government is dragging us into an abyss,” said one woman, protesting in Rome.

“This is the first step of a crucial autumn,” said another demonstrator, amid a strike that badly hit public services and transport. “Our generation has to fight back.”

Italy strengthened austerity moves as market pressure on its bonds intensified. But, with pressure piling on their purse-strings, angry Italians look far from ready to swallow Berlusconi’s bitter belt-tightening pill.