In Rome, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets against Prime Minister Renzi’s labor market reforms. But he doesn’t even think about giving in to the pressure. The stumbling block: Renzi plans to relax employee protection in the first few years of employment.
By Gregor Hoppe, ARD radio studio Rome
Italy’s unions have taken a position against a government that up to now has been more likely to be attributed to one’s own camp. The chairman of the largest trade union confederation in Italy, Susanna Camusso, has a bellicose voice: "We are not delegating the worker’s cause to anyone else, we remain obsessed with the high unemployment in the country and struck by the expressions of young women and men who ask whether they have a future here and a job. "
In front of the Lateran Basilica – the square in the heart of ordinary people’s Rome – the demonstrations for the final rally had flocked. Bright autumn weather. The organizers speak of a million participants. Definitely an exaggerated number. But almost all of the case studies cited by the union leader know from their own experience: "Workers for whom every job advertisement can mean a further wage cut that they have to accept in order not to lose their job. Pensioners who find themselves again every year that they have fewer and fewer women who are thrown out of their jobs because they become pregnant, mothers who need a place in kindergarten because of their work, but cannot find it, and who then don’t even get the 80 euro support they were promised . Students who do not know whether there will be any point in hanging on, who wonder how long their parents can still afford to let them continue their studies … "
Italy is the only EU country that has no tax for the super-rich and high-earners, said union leader Camusso. 10 percent of private households owned over 50 percent of private wealth in the country. A far-reaching redistribution is needed in order to create jobs with public money and to get more people to earn a living. More unemployment benefits. But above all: hands off protection against dismissal, on the contrary – extend it to companies with fewer than 15 employees.
Criticism of Renzi and Fiat boss Marchionne
The posters calling for the final demonstration of the general strike show three heads: Prime Minister Renzi, the Minister of Labor and FIAT boss Sergio Marchionne. He transformed Italy’s No. 1 company into a no-longer-Italian global player. "Let’s fire them with good reason," reads the poster above their heads. This "good reason" justifies the termination so far. If the dismissed person then sues and the court determines that the dismissal was unfounded, the company must reinstate him and reimburse the full lost salary – all at once.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suggests resigning the few plaintiffs. Instead of years of arguing for re-employment, with an open outcome, but not being allowed to accept another post, they could look for something new right away. This relaxation of the very strict protection against dismissal – Renzi speaks Obama-like of the "Jobs Act" – will offer private entrepreneurs an incentive to invest and hire. What the critics of the reform – there are also in Renzi’s own party – do not believe. Especially not for poor southern Italy.
If, as a left-wing democrat, Renzi has bet on more concession for his reforms than past center-right governments got, then the unions have slammed the door in his face for the first time today.