Italy begins strike protest against austerity cuts
Tens of thousands of workers took to the streets across Italy Tuesday as the country's biggest union called a general strike against austerity measures by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government.
"This is a plan the country doesn't deserve," said Susanna Camusso, the secretary general of the CGIL as she led a protest march through Rome hours before the austerity plan was to go before the Senate.
Marches were also taking place in towns and cities across the country. More than 10,000 were taking part in an anti-austerity demonstration in Florence, and another major march was underway in the port city of Genoa.
"We are on the edge of the abyss, we need responsible government," said Camusso as a colourful, banner-wielding column of tens of thousands of workers weaved its way through Rome.
The eight-hour general strike caused major disruption to public transport, with airlines, trains, buses, and ferries announcing cancellations and delays.
Museums and art galleries as well as major attractions like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were closed.
The strike was also affecting hospitals and postal services. Schools were unaffected with classes yet to begin for the year.
Berlusconi's centre-right cabinet adopted the draft 45.5-billion euro ($64.8-billion) plan on August 12 in a bid to calm market panic and bring Italy's budget into balance in 2013 instead of 2014 as planned earlier.
Parliament is widely expected to adopt the plan later this month.
© 2011 AFP