Italy's main trade union calls strike against austerity plan
ROME / BERLIN / BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse | 8/14/2011 12:00:00 AM |
The CGIL, Italy’s largest trade union is preparing to take action against government’s plan to hike taxes, cut spending, privatize assets and ease hire and fire
Italy’s biggest trade union, Italian General Confederation of Labor, or the CGIL, on Sunday called for a general strike against the government’s new austerity plans.
Union chief Susanna Camusso, speaking in the daily La Repubblica newspaper, said the CGIL would hold a meeting on August 23 to fix a date for the strike.
“I can’t see any other way to oppose the iniquity of this austerity plan,” she added.
Italy’s cabinet on Friday approved a 45.5-billion-euro ($64.8-billion) austerity package of spending cuts and tax hikes that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said was due to pressure from Finland, Germany and the Netherlands.
The draft measures -- which must still go before parliament for final approval expected early September -- include a new tax on high earners and deep cuts to local government and cabinet costs.
They seek to assuage jittery markets by returning Italy to a balanced budget in 2013 instead of 2014 as previously planned, and come on top of a 48-billion-euro package agreed in July when Rome first came under pressure.
CGIL secretary general Camusso said that after the extraordinary meeting of the union’s leader next week to fix a date for a general strike the proposal will go out to fellow unions to join the industrial action.
She warned that the government’s fiscal plans would hit economic growth.
The plans also favour a liberalized economy, privatizations and make it easier for employers to hire and fire.
EU welcomes plan
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy has welcomed new Italian austerity measures as “crucially important” for the entire 17-nation eurozone.
“I fully support and welcome the timely and rigorous financial measures,” Van Rompuy said in a statement after a telephone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday evening.
“I underlined that these approved measures are crucially important not only for Italy but for the eurozone as a whole.”
The Italian prime minister told the news agency Ansa that he had spoken to both the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank, or ECB, head Jean-Claude Trichet, adding that both “strongly appreciated” Italy’s latest austerity budget. “The theme of the discussion was not just Italy but also the euro and therefore Europe in general. Because of that everyone was closely watching what Italy would be able to accomplish”, Berlusconi said.
Step by step
The eurozone can only be reformed “step by step”, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Saturday, calling for European solidarity to achieve necessary reforms.
“We are going to reinforce the stability pact” but “though we would like to strengthen European institutions straight away, we can only do it step by step”, Schaeuble said in an interview with the weekly magazine Der Spiegel released Saturday ahead of publication Monday.
“We must have (Europe’s) citizens with us”, he added.
“When we created the euro we were not able to simultaneously create a political union, people were not ready”, said Schaeuble, often described as the “last European” in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government because of his consistent pushing for European political cooperation.
“In the intervening time, the acceptance to go in this direction has increased” but “it is a process and often a slow and difficult one”, he said.