Transport strike brings ‘Black Friday’ to Italian cities

Transport strike brings ‘Black Friday’ to Italian cities
People queue for a taxi during a 24-hour national public transport strike at Termini central station in Rome on June 16. REUTERS/Max Rossi

ROME (Reuters) — Nationwide strikes left commuters and tourists stranded across Italy on Friday, as transport unions called for better job conditions for workers and protested against privatization.

Underground and overground trains, airplanes and buses were cancelled in a series of strikes over a 24-hour period starting on Thursday evening.

Transport Minister Graziano Delrio said he had tried to negotiate with union leaders, but "sadly, it will be a black Friday."

People seeking shade from the summer sun at bus stops around Rome's Termini train station — the city's main transport hub — said it was unfair that the country's powerful labour unions still resorted to striking.

"I've waited for buses from three different lines for two hours and not even one has passed," said Rome resident Franco Marini. "I find this way of protesting uncivil, in the 21st century there should be other ways to resolve labour issues."

Italy is due to spin off parts of the state railway company under a delayed privatization plan to cut its huge public debt.

It is also looking for a buyer for struggling airline Alitalia, which was put under state management in May after making losses for years.

"The doctrine of privatization has gradually, dangerously spread through this sector, creating economic instability, unemployment, fewer services, and worrying reductions in safety, and sending salaries and workers' rights and protections into free fall," the SGB union said in a statement.

One of the special commissioners brought in to help salvage Alitalia said the strikes were "irresponsible" and "a gift to competitors," adding the airline would try to cancel no more than 160 of 620 flights scheduled during the walk out.

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