Dec 12, 2014 5:14 AM

Thousands of Italian workers march against reforms

The Associated Press

MILAN (AP) Thousands of striking workers marched Friday through more than 50 Italian cities to protest government reforms that they say erode their rights.

The general strike, which has shut down basic services across Italy, is the first-ever by two of Italy's largest union confederations against a center-left government, which has traditionally cozied up to unions.

Premier Matteo Renzi said the right to strike must be protected, but insisted his tougher line is necessary to return the economy to growth and create jobs.

"The future belongs not to those who are afraid but those who have the courage and the desire to change," Renzi told a business forum in Istanbul.

In a sign of internal discord within his own party, some members of the Democratic Party joined the marches. Stefano Fassina, a former deputy economics minister, told Sky TG24 said he thought it was important that someone from the party marched alongside the workers.

CGIL leader Susanna Camusso was leading a protest march in the northern city of Turin, headquarters of the Fiat carmaker and symbolic of Italy's shrinking industrial might. Camusso said change needs to be made "with, and not against the people" and that the government should heed the voices of the protesters.

Unions are protesting spending cuts and labor market reforms that will make it easier for firms to fire workers.

The general strike created a patchwork of chaos as local transport, schools, ports and other services were shut down on rotating schedules.


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