Millions of workers in Italy were expected Monday to down tools in a three hour-long general strike called by unions to protest what they say are unfair measures contained in the government‘s recently announced austerity package.
The move came after the failure on Sunday of last ditch talks to avert the work stoppage between Prime Minister Mario Monti and the leaders of the three main union confederations, CGIL, CISL and UIL.
Monti has billed the 24-billion-euro (32-billion-dollar) austerity package unveiled by his technocratic government on Sunday as a "Save Italy" decree to rescue the country from possible bankruptcy.
The measures aim to raise more than 10 billion euros. They include a new property tax, a 2 per cent increase in value-added tax by the second half of 2012, raising the age at which workers qualify for a pension, a new tax on luxury items such as yachts, and new efforts to curb tax evasion.
The unions say that salaried workers and pensioners are being forced to bear the brunt of the measures, and have warned they will call further work stoppages, unless changes are made to the package which goes before parliament this week.