May 22, 2013
Italian unions strike against Monti, close Colosseum
Up to 30,000 members of two of Italy's biggest unions marched through Rome today to protest against Prime Minister Mario Monti's cuts in public spending, forcing the closure of the Colosseum.
Opposition to austerity policies aimed at steering the country out of its economic crisis is growing as the year-long recession shows no signs of letting up and unemployment continues to rise.
The march by mainly public sector workers followed clashes between anti-austerity protesters and police in Madrid and Athens this week and coincided with a second day of labour unrest at the ILVA steel plant in southern Italy.
Staff at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum walked off their jobs, closing two of the city's top tourist attractions. The morning rush-hour traffic was badly snarled but the rally was peaceful.
University professors, public administration employees, garbage collectors and health workers also stopped work in support of the march.
"At the moment, I just can't see a future that gives us any hope, particularly for the youth," former soldier Emilio Amiraglia said at the event.
Monti's coalition passed spending cuts in August that included a modest downsizing of the public sector, where wages have already been frozen for more than two years, and cuts to state healthcare funding.
The spending cuts followed unpopular austerity reforms and an overhaul of hiring-and-firing rules that drew stiff opposition and protests from labour unions earlier this year.