'People are hungry': Italy hit by general strike over government budget

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'People are hungry': Italy hit by general strike over government budget
A message at Rome Termini railway station warns passengers to expect possible delays due to strike action on Friday, November 17th. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Public sector employees and transport staff across Italy went on strike on Friday, in protests pitting Italy's low-paid workers against the hard-right government over its 2024 budget.


Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's government has been accused of using the budget to chase votes ahead of next year's European Parliament elections at the expense of workers and pensioners

"Meloni, the people are hungry", read one banner held aloft by protesters gathered in Rome's historic Piazza del Popolo, while thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets in Genoa and Milan.

The budget law, which is now making its way through parliament, has been heavily criticised by opposition politicians.

Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein slammed the plan as "absolutely not up to the difficult situation that the country is experiencing"

READ ALSO: How will Italy's 2024 budget affect your finances?

"It is a budget without a strategic vision ...which, in the end, will not improve the lives of Italians. Much less those of the 3.5 million working poor which the Meloni government has once again ignored by not addressing their wages, which remain among the lowest in Europe".

The protest was called by two of the country's largest unions, CGIL and UIL, which say the tax-cutting budget woefully underfunds key sectors such as health, education and industry.

Protests affecting transport services will now last from 9am to 1pm on Friday, however national rail operator Trenitalia warned that train services (local and interregional) may also be affected outside of those hours.

A protest against the government's budget plan at Piazza del Popolo in Rome on November 17, 2023. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)


The strike may also impact local public transport (buses, trams and metro trains), taxis, ferry services, freight services and motorways, though a minimum level of ‘essential’ service is guaranteed by law in all cases.

Teachers, healthcare workers, taxi drivers and postal workers were called to strike for up to eight hours nationwide, while some in the private sector, from steelworkers to shopkeepers, could join in central Italy.

As is the case with all strikes in Italy, the level of disruption caused will vary by area and industry sector.

READ ALSO: Why are there so many transport strikes in Italy?

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also transport minister, imposed restrictions on what was initially planned as a 24-hour general strike, to the outrage of union leaders.

Salvini, who has in recent months cut short several strikes, wrote on social media late on Tuesday that he had blocked the protest to "protect the rights of 20 million workers, citizens and commuters."

CGIL general secretary Maurizio Landini accused him of an "attack on the right to strike".

Unions had earlier scaled back the action, saying the air transport sector would no longer be involved and a strike by firefighters would be shortened to four hours, after Italy's strike regulator recommended the protest be postponed and said did not meet the requirements for a general strike.


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