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Italy prepares for its age of austerity

Italy prepares for its age of austerity
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Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has told his country to brace itself for an age of austerity.

The 68-year-old economics professor said he would aim to balance the need to revive Italy’s sagging growth rate with fairness for all.

Unions are particularly concerned that wages and pensions will be slashed.

They point to similar cost-cutting measures in the euro zone’s other indebted countries as evidence of what awaits the Italian people.

Monti’s promise of fairness didn’t bring anti-austerity protests to a halt on Thursday.

Students and trade union members took to the streets of Milan, Turin and the capital, Rome, to demonstrate against the former EU commissioner’s cost-cutting agenda.

Unions warn that workers should not pay for Italian crisis

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti should protect workers and pensioners in his bid to balance the country’s books, according to Nicola Nicolosi, the secretary of the CGIL Confederation, Italy’s biggest trade union.

He spoke with euronews’ Claudio Rosmino.

Euronews: “Prime Minister Monti presented his government’s programme. He underlined the need for labour market and pension reforms, but he spoke a lot about sacrifices and fairness. What’s your stance?”

Nicola Nicolosi, Secretary of the CGIL Confederation: “We were looking forward to this speech but for the time being I would like to express some concerns.”

“I do want to have more details about the Monti government’s goals in order to better understand them. We agree what he said on fairness but again we do want to know what the situation will be like for the workers, pensioners and the weakest people in our society.”

Euronews: “Pension and labour market reforms: what are the limits for the CGIL and what parts of Monti’s plan do you agree with?”

Nicolosi: “We don’t accept as a matter of principle to save money by cutting pensions. We have been saying that for months. Our pension system is hanging in balance.”

“On the job market: we already have a very flexible job market but 46 different kind of contracts are too much. We do think that we need to simplify this system.”

Euronews: “Considering the Italian situation, which is difficult in both economic and financial terms, do you think that these sacrifices will get the support of unions and the employers?

Nicolosi: “We have always made sacrifices, it’s not the first time. We are a responsible union that is always ready to face the major challenges in our country.”

“What we are complaining about is that the only people paying for this crisis are workers and pensioners. We don’t agree with this at all. We want the people who never paid towards solving this crisis to start paying too.”

Euronews: “You have also a European point of view on this crisis, and on its costs for the workers. How do you consider the Italian situation compared with other countries like Greece and Spain?”

Nicolosi: “We are living in a larger context. The Italian crisis also comes from a wider crisis hitting not only Europe but the entire world. Our complaint is that politics gave up to its main role. Politics failed to face the main issues influencing not only the job market, but also the world economy.

“The financial markets are becoming more and more powerful, whereas industry and politics are becoming weaker. Politicians must impose rules on the financial markets because the financial markets cannot decide the destiny of seven billion people.”

Euronews: “In a country with one of the highest rates of public debt in Europe and an elevated youth unemployment rate, can workers still hope for a turnaround?”

Nicolosi: “We do need to have hope of finding a better future in a better country. That’s the direction we are moving in. We want to help the country to recover from the crisis and to guarantee the welfare state in the future.”