October 25, 2002 | Page 4
AS MANY as 1 million workers took to the streets for rallies in more than 100 cities October 18 as Italy was rocked by a second general strike in less than six months.
The eight-hour strike was called by the General Confederation of Italian Workers (CGIL)--Italy's biggest union federation, with more than 6 million members--to protest budget cuts by the government of right-wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi--a media magnate whose government includes the neo-Nazi National Alliance--has put retirement pensions, school funding and health care on the chopping block.
The strike also protested the government's repeal of "Article 18," a labor law that gives fired workers legal rights to appeal. According to the CGIL, Berlusconi's latest attack will cost 280,000 jobs--in the midst of major recession.
But workers are fighting back. So far this year, more than 25 million work hours have been lost to strikes and work stoppages--a six-fold increase over the same period last year.
Unfortunately, the CGIL was the only one of Italy's three major labor federations to participate in the strike. Government officials tried to play up divisions among the unions to claim that last week's strike was a failure.
But with 1 million people in the streets to show their anger at the cuts, Berlusconi can't pretend that workers will roll over in the face of this attack.