ROME (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Rome Saturday to protest against Premier Matteo Renzi's drive to make it easier to fire workers.
Two noisy marches crisscrossed the heart of the Italian capital, snarling traffic for hours. Demonstrators cheered as CGIL labor confederation head Susanna Camusso promised more protests and strikes unless Renzi abandons efforts to give employers considerably more leeway to fire workers.
The center-left premier contends businesses fear hiring workers they cannot dismiss in case business sours, because current legislation makes it very hard to lay off employees. Renzi is confident the measure would help heal Italy's recession-mired economy.
Union leaders and workers scoffed at the easier-to-fire makes it easier-to-hire rationale.
"We must have our rights protected 100 percent," said Katia Cugliato, a 33-year-old marcher.
An official of the FIOM metalworkers union, Federico Bellono, contended the government was deceiving people by saying "taking away some rights ... would automatically make it easier to hire people."
Nationwide, unemployment tops more than 12 percent. Nearly one of every two youths is unemployed, with many going abroad to find work.
Renzi's proposed legislation, which he dubs the "Jobs Act," also calls for reduced payroll taxes for employers hiring young workers on full-time contracts. For years now, the job market trend in Italy is to hire workers just starting out on contracts lasting only about a year, leaving young people to string together a succession of temporary gigs with no job security.
Italy's industrialists' lobby Confindustria is pushing for even more generous tax breaks for businesses.
"Frankly, I don't think that in this moment of grave crisis, demonstrations or strikes are the best solution," Confindustria president Giorgio Squinzi told a Naples gathering of young business owners.
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