Italian Unions Stage Protest Against Pension Reforms

Prime Minister Mario Monti has implemented deep austerity budget cuts and reforms that raise the minimum pension age and increase the number of years that contributions have to be paid.

Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Rome on April 13 in protest against pension reforms that critics say could leave 350,000 people on jobless benefits receiving no income. The protest against Prime Minister Mario Monti's move to increase the minimum pension age was called by the three main trade unions -- CGIL, CISL and UIL -- and snarled traffic in the Italian capital but passed off peacefully.

Unions say that many Italians signed redundancy agreements that allow them to receive unemployment benefits before having a right to an official pension and that these people will be left without money because of pension reforms.

The government has criticized "unjustified alarmism" on the issue, saying that only 65,000 people will find themselves in this situation and that enough funds have been put away to assist them before they receive pensions.

"Enough with promises!" "Together with those without work, without revenue and without a pension!," read some of the banners at the protest.

One placard depicted a pensioner jumping over a plate of pasta with the slogan: "The Italian pensioner, a champion in skipping meals."

"We will not leave workers alone," Susanna Camusso, leader of the CGIL, the biggest trade union in the country, told the crowd.

Monti, who replaced Silvio Berlusconi in November last year, has implemented deep austerity budget cuts and reforms that raise the minimum pension age and increase the number of years that contributions have to be paid.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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