Italy began a round of consultations Monday on long-delayed labour market reforms that have been slammed by unions as Prime Minister Mario Monti struggles to put the embattled economy back in motion.
Social Affairs Minister Elsa Fornero met with Raffaele Bonanni, the leader of the Cisl trade union -- the first of several meetings including talks on Wednesday with Emma Marcegaglia, head of the main employers' federation Confindustria.
Bonanni said the meeting was "calm and productive" but called for a roundtable on negotiations to discuss the government's plans, including the possibility of a reform that would make hirings and firings easier.
Since replacing Silvio Berlusconi in November last year, Monti has said he wants to overhaul the labour market to give more opportunities to young people and women and increase flexibility in a notoriously static system.
Speaking in an interview on Sunday, Monti said that "nothing should be considered taboo" in terms of economic reforms, adding: "We are in a phase in which there is a desperate need for permanent jobs, not for symbols."