Public sector workers in Italy have staged an eight-hour strike against the new austerity bill, now in the final straight of its passage through parliament.
While the government tries to do its bit to save the euro, unions have been on the warpath; protesting again outside parliament against measures they see as unfair.
“Our salaries are frozen. It’s as if they’d been cut, what with the rising cost of living and new taxes: it all falls on our shoulders,” said one woman among the demonstrators.
The measures, which have been welcomed by Italy’s EU partners, will cut public spending, raise taxes and reform pensions to try to restore market confidence and balance the budget.
“The lower house has harshly hit poor people, while sparing the privileged and the big fishes of the state, the heavy tax dodgers, sparing all the wealthier people. They should first squeeze the richest and then deal with the poor,” said Raffaele Bonnani, leader of one of Italy’s largest unions, the CISL.
The measures, worth 33 billion euros in cuts and tax rises, were passed by parliament’s lower house on Friday after Mario Monti’s new government won a confidence vote earlier in the day. The bill has now moved to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved before Christmas.