Monti popularity dips over austerity, unions call strikes
By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Monti, trying to push through a tough austerity package he says is vital for the country's financial salvation, faced two calls for national strikes and saw a dip in his public support on Wednesday.
The three main trade union confederations, after divisive dithering over their individual responses, announced a joint national three-hour strike in the private sector for December 12.
Public sector workers will strike for eight hours on December 19 against the 30 billion-euro ($40.3 billion) package affecting pensions and property taxes.
The labor actions were called as Monti was hit by a new poll that showed his overall approval rating had dropped to 64 percent from 73 percent late last month before the details of the package were known.
Monti, a former European Commissioner who formed a government of technocrats on November 17, said in a television interview on Tuesday night the package was vital to avoid the risk of Italy becoming insolvent and no longer being able to pay public sector salaries or pensions.
He said he was confident Italians would see that sacrifices were necessary and the measures were fair. "I'm sure there will be protests, and I can even consider them justified, but I'm sure that citizens will understand," he said.
Commentators said there was little risk the package would not be passed, because political parties who back Monti realize the country is in dire straits, but there would continue to be aggressive demands to change it. Continued...