By Catherine Hornby
ROME (Reuters) - Thousands of Italian trade unionists rallied in central Rome on Saturday to protest against public spending cuts, job losses and factory closures, urging Mario Monti's government to do more to help workers hit by recession.
"We're here to support all the workers who are in dispute with their companies during this economic crisis," said protester Michele Giuliva as he joined the rally organized by the left-leaning CGIL union, Italy's biggest.
"The government is thinking only of bond spreads."
Italians are grappling with a prolonged economic slump, unemployment has risen to its highest since monthly records began in 2004 and unions are locked in growing disputes with companies over plant closures and layoffs.
Austerity measures passed by Monti to cut debt and reassure bond markets after he replaced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last year have further fuelled discontent, as tax hikes, pension reform and spending cuts eat into incomes.
Workers from all sectors of industry gathered in the square outside St John's Basilica, a traditional rallying point for left-wing protests, holding red balloons and banners with slogans such as "Go away Monti".
CGIL secretary Susanna Camusso slammed the government in a fiery speech, saying austerity had failed and lawmakers should focus on ways to encourage investment and boost employment.
"Your policies have hit consumption, while failing to care about industry and failing to care about workers, and are the reason why the country is in an extraordinary, deep recession," Camusso said.
Saturday's rally was the latest in a string of protests against the Italian government, and comes as demonstrations and strikes are mounting again across debt-laden southern Europe from Greece to Spain.
Threatened closures at factories such as Alcoa's aluminium plant in Sardinia and the Ilva steel plant in southern Italy have led to angry rallies and strikes by workers fearing for their jobs.
On Friday, a court ordered car maker Fiat to rehire 145 workers it had dismissed earlier this year over a union dispute. The workers are members of CGIL's metal industry arm which refused to sign up to new working conditions imposed by Fiat.
Anti-austerity protesters were also marching in London on Saturday against British public spending cuts.
(Additional reporting by Carmelo Camilli; editing by Andrew Roche)