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Italian Workers to Continue Protesting Labor Laws - 2002-03-27


Thousands of Italian workers will take to the streets again Wednesday night to voice their opposition to the government's planned labor reforms. The demonstrators will take part in a torch-lit procession organized by the unions in the center of Rome.

Tension between the Italian government and the unions shows no signs of easing. For months, the two sides have been at odds over the government's plans to reform Italy's rigid labor laws.

The proposed changes would effectively make it easier for employers to dismiss workers. The government has said this is necessary to make the Italian labor market competitive with other European Union nations.

Negotiations between the government and the unions have broken down. Talks had been scheduled for Tuesday but fell apart when cabinet members implied labor leaders were not committed to anti-terrorism efforts.

A government adviser who had been working on drafting Italy's labor law, Marco Biagi, was shot and killed last week. Cabinet members suggested that tension over the reform had led to the killing of Mr. Biagi.

Italy's three largest trade unions Tuesday announced an eight-hour general strike on April 16. The last time the unions called such a long stoppage was 20 years ago. The unions also planned a torch-lit procession in the Italian capital for Wednesday with thousands expected to take part.

Leaders of the three unions plan to address supporters at the end of the procession in Rome's central Piazza Navona.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he is willing to negotiate with the unions. But he has also made clear he will not bow to union pressure to block key elements of the planned reform.

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