* Unions to hold half-day strikes till mid-November
* Call on parties to change budget in parliament
* Budget criticised by unions, employers, former PM Monti
By Roberto Landucci
ROME, Oct 21 Italy's three main trade union
confederations will hold rolling strikes and protests against
the government's 2014 budget plan, they said on Monday, piling
more pressure on Enrico Letta's fragile coalition.
Unions, employers and even politicians from among the ruling
parties have complained the budget does too little to reduce
taxes, reverse years of austerity or reform an economy which has
been in recession for two years.
The fiscal law, which aims to lower Italy's budget deficit
to 2.5 percent of output in 2014 from a targeted 3.0 percent
this year, has become a focal point of discontent against the
unpopular left-right coalition government.
On Friday strikes by smaller left-wing unions hit transport,
education and public services and on Saturday demonstrators
clashed with police in Rome as tens of thousands protested
Luigi Angeletti, head of the moderate UIL union, said that
to preserve his government's stability Letta had bowed to
political vetoes from coalition partners which had blocked
promised bold spending cuts and tax reductions.
"Everything stays the same, Letta shouldn't have made a
budget to stabilise the government, he should have created one
to stabilise the country," he told reporters after a meeting
the chiefs of the larger CISL and CGIL confederations.
The unions called for major changes to the budget law during
its passage through parliament, where it must be approved by the
end of the year, but they stopped short of calling a nationwide
Instead they will hold half-day strikes among various
categories of workers up to mid-November, when they will meet
again to assess whether the government has responded to their
demands and decide on future action.
Letta described the unions' decision as "hasty" during an
interview on the La 7 TV channel. He said he would discuss the
budget with the unions, saying it would help Italians by
avoiding tax hikes and cuts to healthcare spending.
Ruling parties on both sides of Letta's coalition of former
rivals have promised to change the budget, prompting a warning
from head of state Giorgio Napolitano that amendments must not
flout Italy's public finance commitments to the European Union.
While Angeletti and CISL head Raffaele Bonanni demanded more
cuts to wasteful public spending, leader of the left-wing CGIL
Susanna Camusso called on Letta to raise levies on income from
financial investment and cut taxes for workers and pensioners.
Former Prime Minister Mario Monti joined the chorus of
criticism over the weekend, accusing Letta of undoing the good
work of his government and being "on its knees" before the
policy diktats of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right.