Italy seeks to curtail transport strikes
Fri Feb 27, 2009 7:11am EST
ROME, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Italy's centre-right government moved on Friday to restrict transport strikes, drawing an immediate rebuke from one of the country's biggest unions.
The cabinet approved a bill to require support of at least half the workforce to call transport strikes after the country endured hundreds of stoppages in the sector last year, many of them in protest at the sale of the airline Alitalia AZPIa.MI.
While some unions welcomed the proposals, Italy's largest left-wing union said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was encroaching on workers' democratic right to strike.
"There can be no ambiguity about the right to strike and Berlusconi is taking a path which is dangerous for democracy and freedom and may harm relations between companies and workers," CGIL union boss Guglielmo Epifani said. The government says its aim is not to deprive unions of the right to strike but to ensure that crippling transport strikes are only carried out if there is majority support from workers in a sector or company, respecting rules that limit disruption.
An independent commission which monitors industrial action said on Thursday that last year 413 bus and metro strikes, 301 airline strikes and 216 train strikes were declared. A third were called off at the last minute, but still caused major disruptions, it said.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown; editing by Michael Roddy)