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Italians go on strike to protest austerity measures

 
 
 
 
 
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Demonstrators dressed to represent prisoners, hold chains and a mock cannonball during a protest against the reforms by the Italian government in downtown Rome, October 18, 2013.

Thousands of Italian civil servants and transport workers have gone on strike in the capital Rome and other cities to protest against austerity measures enforced by the government.

Friday strike, which disrupted urban transportation, was organized by the far-left COBAS union against the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

More than 100 flights were grounded at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport while 80 percent of buses stopped running in the capital. In other cities, subway services were disrupted.

Letta, who submitted his 2014 budget on Tuesday, has come under heavy fire for freezes on public sector salaries.

Labor unions are complaining about insufficient relaxation of tax burden on workers.

“With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” COBAS spokesman Piero Bernocchi told Reuters, adding, “Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling and unemployment soaring they still continue with these policies.”

Further protests are planned for Saturday in Rome. Some protestors have said they plan to camp overnight in front of St. John’s Basilica, which is a traditional site for union rallies.

Italy started to experience recession after its economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of the same year.

Over the past decade, Italy has been the slowest growing economy in the eurozone as tough austerity measures, spending cuts, and pension changes have stirred serious concerns for many people already grappling with the European country’s ailing economy.

Italians have been staging protests against high unemployment, economic adversity, and hardship over a series of government-imposed austerity packages in the recent past.

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