Workers from Italy’s crisis-hit firms were out in force Saturday at a national rally in central Rome to demand an end to prime minister Mario Monti’s austerity policies that have cost the country hundreds of thousands of jobs and are laying waste to Europe’s second largest manufacturing sector.
The day of action, called by Italy’s largest trade union confederation, CGIL, highlighted the plight of women and the youth in particular and called for policies that revive growth through cuts to taxes on workers, public investment in both industrial and service sectors – aided by a loosening of public spending limits on local governments -and better welfare protection for millions of casual workers.
Held in Rome’s Piazza San Giovanni, the ‘Jobs First’ event presented to the general public ‘a journey into the crisis’ through stalls representing struggling firms and their employees from every region of Italy. There were also musicians, actors and a range of speakers, from workers in firms facing closure to general secretary of the CGIL, Susanna Camusso.
Camusso attacked the government in a fiery speech, saying austerity had failed.’Your policies have hit consumption, while failing to care about industry and failing to care about workers, and are the reason why the country is in an extraordinary, deep recession,” Camusso said.
Italy’s industrial production and the economy in general have been contracting since autumn last year, while unemployment has risen, from 8.3% to 10.7% this September, and the jobless total is set to rise to 11.1% in 2013 according to the latest forecast by the IMF. Less than half of Italy’s 7.7 million young people are in work or school, and at 46% there are fewer women in jobs in Italy than anywhere else the European Union bar Malta.
Austerity policies pursued by the unelected former Goldman Sachs advisor Monti have resulted in a dramatic fall in purchasing power , rising household indebtedness and financial problems with homelessness rising to just under 50,000.
Since taking over from Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011, Monti has hiked taxes* that weigh most heavily on the middle and working classes, pushed through regressive labour and pension ‘reforms’, slashed public services and helped out the banks.
The Government has given €2 billion to Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena and has made available other €10 billion as Italy’s share of a European Stability Mechanism fund that is to be used to shell out up to €100 billion to Spanish banks.
Yet the banks are still not lending – the value of loans to non-financial firms fell by 1.9% in August compared to the same time last year.
*The cut to income tax unveiled a week ago is expected be swallowed up soaring prices fuelled by a hike in value added tax.