* Head of Italy's biggest union urges resistance
* Berlusconi calls on opposition to support plan
* Doubts emerge over plan's viability
By Catherine Hornby
ROME, Oct 27 Italy's biggest trade union pledged
on Thursday to fight economic reforms that Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi presented to euro zone leaders to ease a debt crisis,
deepening doubts over whether the ambitious plan can be
Susanna Camusso, secretary of the powerful CGIL union,
called on other worker federations to close ranks against the
plan, which includes a commitment to raise the retirement age
and steps to make it easier for firms to lay off staff.
"We're ready to propose unified action," Camusso said in an
interview with the left-leaning La Repubblica daily, describing
the reforms as a combination of "targeted attacks" on Italian
Berlusconi submitted a hastily constructed package of
reforms to a summit of European leaders on Wednesday in response
to an ultimatum demanding action to boost growth and cut Italy's
huge public debt.
After the summit, Berlusconi appealed to opposition leaders
to support the plan, saying it was in Italian interests.
"We hope the opposition wants to get out of this situation
of always saying no and always being against things, and that it
will back approval of these measures requested by Europe,"
Berlusconi told reporters.
But several commentators raised doubts about the viability
of the plan on Thursday, pointing to tensions within the ruling
coalition and a poisonous political climate in Rome.
"It's difficult to believe that yesterday's intentions can
really be transformed into the biggest plan of market reforms
Italy has ever put on paper," Antonio Polito wrote in the
Corriere della Sera daily.
In an editorial in La Repubblica, Massimo Giannini described
the plan as a "book of dreams" which would not solve Italy's
Berlusconi carried a "letter of intent" to the EU summit,
promising a much delayed economic development plan by Nov. 15
and a series of other measures to increase growth and ensure the
budget is balanced by 2013.
They formed part of a euro zone deal with private banks and
insurers aimed at drawing a line under spiraling debt problems
that have threatened to unravel the European single currency
After dodging the worst of the financial crisis in recent
years, Italy has moved to the centre of the euro zone debt
crunch this year as its bond yields soared to near unsustainable
levels. Only intervention from the European Central Bank has
prevented them from sliding out of control.