Italy paralysed as 42 unions join strike

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The Independent Online

Air travellers and people in need of medical treatment were left stranded across Italy yesterday as Alitalia pilots and hospital medical staff went on strike, two unconnected actions in a spate of strikes by Italian professionals fed up with government reforms and cuts.

About 90,000 non-urgent operations and consultations were cancelled and hospitals from Lombardy to Sicily stood deserted.

The 42 unions representing the nation's 155,000 doctors, surgeons, vets, biologists and administrative staff took the concerted 24-hour action to protest against reductions in public health spending and extended negotiations over new contracts. It was the first time the unions have combined to stage a simultaneous strike.

In an unconnected action, more than 8,000 passengers were affected when the national carrier's pilots went on strike over a salary freeze and the loss of 2,700 jobs. Alitalia said it had cancelled 159 flights.

The most controversial white-collar strike is yet to come: Italy's judges are to stage a one-day walkout next month to express their anger at a government bill to rob them of their independence, a measure described by Carlo Fucci, the leader of the magistrates' association as "the most disgraceful reform in the history of the republic".