Italy’s austerity plan may spark strike

Associated Press / August 15, 2011

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ROME - Italy’s largest union, the CGIL, is threatening a general strike against an austerity package Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government pushed through in response to demands by the European Central Bank to balance the budget.

Critics say the $64.8 billion worth of spending and job cuts and tax increases, including a “solidarity tax’’ for high-earners, will strangle the economy. Even some members of Berlusconi’s coalition say it targets the middle class and fails to tackle Italy’s massive tax-evasion problem.

Berlusconi called the measures fair and said they had won praise from the European Central Bank and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said the measures will be passed by parliament quickly when lawmakers return from vacation.

Italy has one of the highest debts in the eurozone.