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Italian strikers defy reform efforts

Friday, December 12, 2014 - 02:05

Prime minister Matteo Renzi's efforts to impose labour market and other reforms come under serious pressure as members of the country's two major trade union confederations go on strike. David Pollard reports.

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'Out of service' reads the sign on the bus. Cynics say it could as well apply to the Italian economy - brought to a standstill in parts by the latest industrial unrest. These commuters tried to get ahead of the strike - but most failed. Even so, many support the action. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) COMMUTER LORIANA BLASI, SAYING: "I think it is right to strike, it is time, we need to start moving. We need to start playing our part as citizens and workers." Airports were hit too - delaying or cancelling domestic and international flights, and stranding passengers - this one trying to get back to New York. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMERICAN TOURIST FROM NEW YORK, NICK, SAYING: "So we are calling our travel insurance company and we are figuring things out. I don't really know enough about the strike to know if it is right or wrong." Elsehere, scuffles broke out as tempers flared. At issue are the rights and wrongs of prime minister Matteo Renzi's reform attempts. In particular, his 'Jobs Act' - aimed at loosening laws on firing employees. Unemployment's at record levels - and 40 per cent of young people have no jobs. Unions say the burden of reforms and spending cuts is hitting workers unfairly. Investors say there's little option - especially after a recent downgrade of Italy's credit rating to just one above junk level. Jeremy Stretch is head of forex strategy at CIBC. SOUNDBITE (English) JEREMY STRETCH, HEAD OF FX STRATEGY, CIBC, SAYING: ''It just underlines the structural problems and structural issues that parts of Europe still have. It's undeniably a real shot across the bows for Matteo Renzi who is trying to push forward a reformist agenda. And I think it's tough in order for him to pursue that when he's getting this sort of negative headlines, negative externalities.'' The recent numbers tell their own story, says Jeremy Batstone-Carr of Charles Stanley. SOUNDBITE (English) JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, DIRECTOR PRIVATE CLIENT SERVICES, CHARLES STANLEY, SAYING: ''Italian data over the course of the summer and the autumn has lagged that of the euro zone which has been persistently weak, as we all know, and of course has culminated recently in confirmation that the Italian economy has triple-dipped back into recession.'' Hospitals and schools were also hit by the strike. In all, more than 50 rallies planned across the country.

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Italian strikers defy reform efforts

Friday, December 12, 2014 - 02:05