ITALY - Italian trade unions have decided to extend the front in their battlewith the government to include alterations to the pensions system as one of the reforms to be opposed along with greater labour market flexibility.
One of the aims of the general strike in April, which brought most of the country's biggest industry, transport and public administration to a halt, was to voice opposition to the government's plans to reduce company contributions to state pensions for new employees.
According to draft proposals employer contributions to state pensions for workers starting employment after a certain date would be cut by between 3% and 5%.
This would be to compensate companies for putting severance pay contributions directly into private pension funds rather than keeping them on their balance sheet.
The leader of one of the three unions which organised the general strike hit out at the government's plans:
The pensions system is stable at the moment. There is no need to cut anything. If we accept a reduction in contributions (to state pensions) now, we will be told in a few years’ time that there is no alternative but to cut how much pensioners receive, said Luigi Angeletti, head of the union UIL.
UIL is considered to be one of the more moderate unions that the govern-ment was hoping to entice into negotiations about its reforms. CGIL, the largest and most left-wing which is even more emphatically opposed to cutting contributions to state pensions, has seen membership start rising since it decided to oppose centre-right administration.
The strength of support for the unions has surprised the government, although it appears determined to continue the reform process. Its proposals for legislation to cut employer contributions are being discussed by committees in the parliament.
But it is still very difficult to predict either when the reform proposals will emerge or whether they will include the now controversial provisions for a reduction in contributions to the state pension.
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