Italian protesters rally against job market reform
Rome - XINHUA
Tens of thousands of people marched on Friday in several Italian cities against labor market reform planned by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government.
A security alert had been in place since early morning in the capital city Rome, where five different rallies took place. A major march brought protesters to the Economy Ministry amid tight security measures.
Some demonstrators threw smoke bombs and eggs towards the ministry's offices, and had minor clashes with police forces.
There was a peaceful flash mob at the Colosseum, Rome's most symbolic monument, who climbed the scaffolding of an ongoing restoration to display protest banners.
The controversial Jobs Act, a reform proposed by the government to grant firms more flexibility in hiring and firing employees, cancels the right to reinstatement in all cases of layoffs, and only permits it in cases of discriminatory and disciplinary dismissals.
The right to reinstatement currently is granted to workers in companies with more than 15 employees in case of unjustified layoffs.
The reform was passed by the Senate early in October, and has to be approved by the Lower House. Some changes in the text could still be introduced after a probable confidence vote called by the government, as it happened in the Senate, to shorten debate and bring all of the government's allies to speedily approve the bill.
The reform has been at the center of animated clashes within Unions, leftist political forces and even Renzi's center-left Democratic Party (PD) over the past weeks, amid arguments that such reform would only fuel social insecurity and discourage permanent contracts, without really lifting the economy.
Internal tensions eased on Thursday, however, when most of PD left-wing dissenters agreed to amend some changes in the Jobs Act to guarantee that employees fired on the basis of groundless disciplinary complaints have the right to get their jobs back.
Union leaders spoke harshly on Friday against the reform. "This reform is just a mockery," the leader of metalworkers' union FIOM Maurizio Landini said.
Susanna Camusso, Italy's largest union CGIL secretary, vowed they would keep fighting to protect the workers and confirmed a general strike would take place on Dec. 5.
"The game is not over, and our position will not be changed even if the reform is approved through a confidence vote in parliament," Camusso said.
The CGIL, with other labor organizations, organized allies in at least 25 cities. Those who answered the unions' call were mainly transport workers, unemployed people, students and leftist activists.
Tough protests also took place in Milan, Italy's main economic hub, where major union leaders gathered to address demonstrators.
According to the cabinet, the reform would be counterbalanced by a broadening of unemployment benefits, which currently do not cover many temporary workers and freelancers.
The reform would also introduce tax breaks for firms using open-ended contracts, and improve the effectiveness of public job agencies.
The Italian National Institute of Statistics stated that the unemployment rate was 12.6 percent in September, and at 42.9 percent among young people under the age of 24.