Public worker strike paralyzes Italy

ROME, March 12 (UPI) — A nationwide strike of Italy’s public employees shut operations from the Milan subway to the prime minister’s office Friday, union leaders said.

“Many cities are gridlocked,” Pierpaolo Leonardi of the USB union told ANSA, the Italian news agency.

Hundreds of workers marched through Rome to defend national contracts against the trend of separate negotiations set in the private sector when Fiat forced plant-by-plant deals on its autoworkers.

The unions also are demanding a crackdown on tax evasion by the rich.

Friday’s walkout included workers in mass transit, airports, utilities, universities, local and provincial governments, social services, tax offices, clinics, ferries and even Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s office, ANSA reported. Only schools were exempt.

Several unions agreed not to strike public transport in Rome, but many of their members defied them and walked out. Both of Rome’s subway lines closed, and trains were drastically slowed down, Rome’s transit authority said.

One striker told ANSA, “I can’t understand my union. We don’t know, for example, what agreement they signed yesterday because no one informed us.”

Another said, “We are here because the agreements that our unions sign are unclear. We workers are in the dark about everything.”

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