General strike highlights trade union tensions

The General Confederation of Italian Workers (Cgil) held a general strike in April 2009 in protest over the alleged inability of the government to tackle the economic crisis. A second reason for the strike was Cgil’s opposition to the agreement on reforming the collective bargaining system reached by the government and the other social partners. The withdrawal of the largest trade union from the agreement will be problematic for Italy’s entire industrial relations system.

On 4 April 2009, the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil) held a general strike. There were two main reasons for the protest. The first was Cgil’s accusation that the government was failing to adequately address the economic crisis, and the trade union’s consequent demand for an appropriate package of structural measures to support employment. The second reason was the deal on reforming the collective bargaining system reached by the government and the other main social partners, including the Confederation of Italian Industry (Confederazione Generale dell’Industria Italiana, Confindustria), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil). Cgil had clearly voiced its opposition to the agreement and refused to sign it (IT0904029I).

On the day of the strike – the slogan for which was ‘Yes to the future, No to the past’ – members of Cgil, which is the largest Italian trade union confederation, travelled to the capital city of Rome in 40 trains, 4,800 coaches and two ships. According to Cgil, the demonstrators numbered 2.7 million persons, whereas government security agencies estimated that the protest involved 200,000 people.

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