30 October 2003 Edition
Ten million strike in Italy
BY ROBBIE SMYTH
Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and erupting volcanoes are all things that have almost no chance of happening in Ireland. Mass trade union activism is also on that list, but does it really have to be that way?
Ten million Italian workers downed tools and left their desks last week for four hours in protest at plans by Silvio Berlusconi to raise the retirement age by five years. Public transport networks, factories and schools all closed as 1.5 million workers took to the streets in cities across Italy demonstrating against the pension proposals.
Pension rights are just one issue that could be the focus of the Irish trade unions. You could add in the minimum wage, union recognition, tax reform, benchmarking but none of these things will it seems get Irish unions onto the streets.
The Italian workers have sent a message not just to own government but to fellow workers across Europe. The only question was whether anyone in Ireland was listening.