AROUND 1.5 million people took to the streets of Rome in Italy last Saturday against government plans to attack their pensions.
The three main trade union federations called the demonstration, which followed a four-hour general strike in October involving millions of workers. The right wing government of businessman Silvio Berlusconi wants to increase the age when Italians can draw a pension from 57 years old to 60 or 65.
A revolt, including a general strike, against Berlusconi's attempts to slash pensions in 1994 brought his first government down after just seven months. Some 3,000 buses and 40 special trains brought protestors to the capital last Saturday. The march was vibrant, colourful and loud. Protesters attacked every aspect of Berlusconi's policies.
Guglielmo Epifani, leader of the CGIL left wing union federation, said, 'After 30 months, this government has left the country poorer and more divided. Berlusconi had better listen to the street.'
The government has said it will now talk to the unions, but Gianfranco Fini, leader of the 'post-fascist' National Alliance and deputy prime minister, made it clear it would not back down. Fini said, 'The government will not surrender to the street.'
The two and a half years of right wing government have seen huge protests and general strikes against its policies.