Italy workers strike to protest government austerity plan
A general strike called Tuesday by Italy's main labour union to protest against government austerity measures was expected to lead to widespread work stoppages and disrupt public transport services, DPA reported.
The eight-hour long strike involving workers from the leftist CGIL union was taking place as parliament's upper house, the Senate, was set to begin a debate on the plan.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government's proposed 45.5 billion-euro (64-billion-dollar) budget plan was first announced early last month as a means to calm market fears that Italy may default on its public debt repayments.
CGIL however, and other critics, including the main opposition centre-left Democratic Party, allege it will hit Italy's poorest families the hardest, while failing to introduce reforms aimed at stimulating economic growth.
Last week the government revised some of the measures contained in the plan, including scrapping a "solidarity tax" on the highest earners and reducing funding cuts to regional governments by around 1.8 billion euros.
Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said that the lost revenue from the solidarity tax will be compensated for by a crackdown on tax evasion.
The package is also meant to persuade the European Central Bank to buy Italian state bonds which have seen their yield rates rise amid fears that Italy may suffer contagion from the debt crisis which has engulfed Greece.
Analysts have warned that the country, the eurozone's third largest economy, cannot sustain the current high borrowing costs.