Italian unions shut down basic services, march in 50 cities against govt economic reforms - InfoNews

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Italian unions shut down basic services, march in 50 cities against govt economic reforms

Students wearing Santa's costumes climb over the fence surrounding the Lombardy region building during a protest in Milan, Italy, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. Thousands of union workers and students staging a general strike marched Friday through more than 50 Italian cities to protest government reforms that they say erode workers' rights. The general strike, shutting down basic services across Italy, is the first ever by two of Italy's largest union confederations against a center-left government, which have traditionally cozied up to unions. Premier Matteo Renzi said the right to strike must be protected, but insisted his tougher line is necessary to return the economy to growth and create jobs. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
December 12, 2014 - 12:11 PM

MILAN - Tens of thousands of union workers marched through more than 50 Italian cities on Friday to protest government economic reforms that they say erode their rights.

Non-union, anti-government protesters clashed with police in some cities, including Milan, where students dressed as Santa Claus jumped the fence at a regional government office building and threw bottles and other objects. Police dispersed that protest with tear gas; authorities said 11 officers were injured.

The general strike, which shut down basic services across Italy, is one of the largest by two of the nation's most powerful union groups against a centre-left government, which had traditionally cozied up to unions. The strike created a patchwork of chaos as trains, buses, schools, ports and other services closed down.

Premier Matteo Renzi said the right to strike must be protected but insisted his tougher line is necessary to return the economy to growth and create jobs.

"The future belongs not to those who are afraid but those who have the courage and the desire to change," Renzi told a business forum in Istanbul.

In a sign of discord within his own Democratic Party, some of its members joined the marches. Stefano Fassina, a former deputy economics minister, told Sky TG24 said it was important that someone from the party marched alongside the workers.

Susanna Camusso, the leader of CGIL, Italy's largest union, led a protest march in the northern city of Turin, headquarters of carmaker Fiat and a symbolic city for the nation's shrinking industrial might. She said changes need to be made "with and not against the people."

The unions are protesting spending cuts and labour market reforms that will make it easier for companies to fire workers that Renzi has passed in a bid to attract foreign investment.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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