Thousands to oppose austerity measures

Italy's Prime Minister Letta listens to a reporter's questions during a joint news conference with Gurria, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)  at Chigi Palace in Rome

ENRICO LETTA, New Italy Prime Minister under fire

ROME – In a rally led by trade unionists, thousands marched through Rome on Saturday May 18, protesting austerity policy and high unemployment.

Thousands of people protested in Rome this weekend against austerity policies and high unemployment, urging the new Prime Minister Enrico Letta to focus on creating jobs to help pull the country out of recession. “We hope that this government will finally start listening to us because we are losing our patience,” said Enzo Bernardis calling for more workers’ rights and better contracts. “We can’t wait anymore” and “We need money to live” were among slogans on banners held up by the crowds.

Letta promised to make jobs his top priority when he came to power in last April but several protesters complained he is not sticking to his vow. Union leaders say he needs to shift away from the austerity agenda pursued by former Prime Minister Mario Monti, who introduced a range of spending cuts, tax hikes and pension reform to shore up strained public finances. “We need to start over with more investment. If we don’t restart with public and private investments, there will no new jobs,” said Maurizio Landini, secretary-general of the left-wing metalworkers union Fiom.

Italy is stuck in its longest recession since quarterly records began in 1970, and jobless rates are close to record highs, with youth unemployment at around 38 percent and many protesters were pessimistic that Letta’s fragile government would be able to take effective action. “This government will not last very long. What we really need in Italy is a new leftist party that will really fight for the rights of the people, not their votes,” were saying the demonstrators.


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