ITALY - Exclusive: Italy can expect national strikes similar to those which crippled France should Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi "insist" on controversial proposals to raise the retirement age.
The proposals came as Germany too announced similar steps, this time to lift the average retirement age to 67 and increase contributions to 2.5%.
The CISL, Italy’s second largest trade union, with over 4 million members, told IPN that should Berlusconi legislate on increasing the retirement age from the current 57 years to 62 “without negotiation” or a lack of incentives then Italy’s trade unions would “most certainly” unite in a mass walkout.
The comments follow Berlusconi’s plans that Italians should work longer and continue to contribute to their pensions for an additional five years.
According to reports, he was quoted in an interview with right-wing paper, Libero, as saying: “In Italy people retire on average at 57. It means unsustainable costs and an annoying loss of talent, which could end up sinking us.”
Typically, the plans have not gone down well with the unions who are already mistrusting of Berlusconi.
But Poalo Signorelli, officer for the international department at Rome-headquartered CISL, said that the unions do acknowledge that some type of reform is needed to avert what he calls a “financial crisis”.
“We do not trust Berlusconi. He is a curious example of a politician. He is a business man [but] the problem of pensions in Italy is a big problem and we do want to find a solution, but one which is good for the unions.”
Roberto Maroni, Italy’s welfare minister, has tried to woo support with a 30% cut in pension contribution overs the five years.
Signorelli said that this was an “interesting” step for the unions to consider, but largely expects Italians to resign themselves to an “inevitable” wholesale reform.
“After a period of time, Italians will come round to the idea of reform again... .”
In August, the Confederation of Italian Workers (Cgil) also reacted angrily to government proposals for new benefit calculation plans.
It believes the pensions of newcomers to the state system are being seriously degraded
Gian Paolo Patta, secretary of the Cgil, said: “The equalisation of public and private pensions would be onerous for the government and at the same time create injustices for those who would see the rules change only a few years before retiring.”
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