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Any resident in Italy is used to the frequent strikes and poor level of service in day to day life. Friday is almost synonymous with ATAC Strike Day – the body responsible for public transport in Rome.
Corruption is rife in Italy and that fact coupled with the previous generation’s job benefits mean that wrestling power and benefits from them for the good of all society is a nigh impossible task. The slightest hint of normalising labour laws, working hours, pay or ancillary benefits causes the powerful unions to step in and strike until they get their way.
Akin to a petulant child, Italian unions hold enormous power. However, the recent (not uncommon) walkout strike by workers of the Coliseum and Roman Forum without any reasonable notice was a tantrum too far for Italy’s young prime minister – Mr Renzi.
Without tourism, Italy and in particular Rome would fall into total economic disaster. Already almost bankrupt, Rome derives most of its income from tourism – it is the lifeblood of the city. Strikes affecting the main tourist attractions are therefore a big deal. With thousands of tourists left in over 30 degree heat after queuing for hours to be told that without warning the Coliseum and Forum are closed, Renzi understands just how damaging this is for the city of Rome and Italy as a whole.
Renzi therefore wants to reclassify the main tourist attractions of Rome as ‘essential public services’ ranked alongside transport, healthcare and education which by law prevents industrial action without warning. The response from the unions? A national strike is being planned to once again flex their muscles and prevent anyone taking any of their many privileges away from them.