* Italian unemployment at record high
* Union chiefs attack Letta government for lack of action
* Government to present package to create jobs for young
By Cristiano Corvino
ROME, June 22 Thousands of workers and
unemployed people marched in Rome on Saturday to protest against
record unemployment and call on Enrico Letta's two-month-old
government to deliver more than empty rhetoric on the issue.
The rally, organised by the country's three largest union
confederations, CGIL, CISL and UIL, was the first major protest
since Letta's broad, left-right coalition took office following
an inconclusive election in February.
Italian unemployment hit 12 percent in April, the highest
level on record, and joblessness among people under 24 is at an
all-time high above 40 percent.
Union chiefs, speaking before a flag-waving crowd estimated
at more than 100,000 by the organisers, criticised Letta for
what they called a lack of action on an urgent problem.
"We can't accept these continuous promises that aren't
translated into decisions that give a change of direction," said
Susanna Camusso, leader of the country's largest union CGIL.
Luigi Angeletti, head of the UIL, said the country could not
afford the piecemeal approach to policy adopted so far,
especially when the ruling coalition is so fragile.
"In a country where the main concern is betting on how long
the government will last, the message is that there is no more
time for promises and announcements," he said in Piazza San
Giovanni, the traditional venue of left-wing protests.
Letta's cabinet is due to unveil a package aimed at tackling
youth unemployment next week, but Angeletti said the measures
being mooted, such as tax breaks for firms hiring young people,
Italy's economy has contracted in every quarter since
mid-2011 - its longest post-war recession - and companies are
steadily shedding staff.
The unionists called on the government to intervene to
prevent plans by white goods maker Indesit to lay off 1,400
workers in one of the most recent labour disputes.
"Indesit isn't in crisis, it just wants to use its profits
to make investments in Turkey and Poland," Camusso said.
One marcher, Lorenzo Giuseppe, told Reuters he had turned
out "to send a message to the government that jobs have to be
the top issue on the agenda. If we have work we can move ahead."
Millions of Italians are so convinced they have no chance of
finding work that they have given up looking altogether, meaning
official figures severely understate the number of unemployed,
according to national statistics office ISTAT.