[A-List] Italy:Labor versus Berlusconi
soncu at pacbell.net
Mon Mar 25 11:35:03 MST 2002
Tension Rises As Italy Unions Pull Out Of Government Meeting
Mon Mar 25,12:41 PM ET
By: Luca Di Leo and Vittorio Alessio, OF DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
ROME -(Dow Jones)- Tension between Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi's center- right government and opposition-backed trade
unions escalated Monday after the country's three largest unions
pulled out of a scheduled meeting Tuesday to discuss
controversial labor market reforms.
The meeting, which the government had intended to use as an olive
branch to mend troubled relations with Italy 's three unions, was
rejected by the unions after officials in Berlusconi's government
accused them of having links with terrorism.
Tension over the reforms, which are part of an E.U.-backed policy
aiming to create more jobs by making it easier to fire workers,
has been rising steadily since one of the authors of those
reforms, Marco Biagi, was killed last week in an attack claimed
by the Red Brigades group of left-wing terrorists.
Italy 's largest trade union, Cgil, with 5.4 million members,
upped the ante this weekend when it brought one million people to
the streets of Rome to demonstrate against the reforms and
Cgil head Sergio Cofferati Monday said he would go to court
unless Berlusconi distanced himself from what he called an
"unacceptable attack" by Reform Minister Umberto Bossi, Defense
Minister Antonio Martino and Labor Undersecretary Maurizio
Sacconi in the wake of Cgil's massive demonstration to protest
Bossi was quoted by daily Il Messaggero as saying that "Cgil's
lies created the pretext for Biagi's killing," while Sacconi told
La Stampa that "if Cgil wants to negotiate (with the government),
then it has to denounce (its) areas of proximity with terrorism."
Martino was quoted by Corriere della Sera as saying Saturday's
rally was a "threat to the (Italian) democracy."
"The remarks are extremely serious and they were made by the same
government officials we were supposed to negotiate with
tomorrow," Cofferati said at a press conference.
"We can't hold a meeting with counterparts that see Cgil in this
Berlusconi Monday dismissed such accusations, and stressed the
Italian government is convinced there are no connections between
unions and terrorism - but there was no immediate sign that
unions would resume talks.
"The government is clearly convinced that there are no secret
pacts, ambiguity, or contiguity between unions and terrorism,"
Berlusconi said in a statement.
However, the head of Italy 's second largest union Cisl, with 4
million members, said the statement wasn't enough to bring unions
back to the negotiating table.
Following Biagi's murder last week, Berlusconi said his
government would push forward with reforms but urged unions to
-By Luca Di Leo and Vittorio Alessio, Dow Jones Newswires; 39 06
678 2543; luca.dileo at dowjones.com
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