Italian transportation workers have staged a strike to protest austerity cuts by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government designed to bring the deficit under control.

CGIL, Italy's largest union, says Friday's strike will effect the country's public transportation systems for at least four hours.  Other workers may be off for a longer period.

The union says the strike is a bid to force the government to rewrite a $30 billion package of spending cuts.

Italian media have reported the plan includes pay freezes or salary cuts for all government workers, and a reduction in federal funds for health care and local governments.

The spending cuts are aimed at bringing the Italian budget in line with European Union requirements by 2012.

The government has warned Italians to get ready to make "heavy sacrifices."

The Italian government says it wants to avoid a Greek-style financial crisis.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.