Strike paralyses Italian cities

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The Independent Online
ROME - Italy ground to a halt as more than a million workers took to the streets in a general strike against government plans to cut pensions and public spending, writes Fiona Leney. The biggest cities were paralysed by marches and rallies, and banks, schools and government offices were closed as public-sector workers took the opportunity for a ponte, or long weekend. Rail and air services were also disrupted. Rallies went off peacefully, but union leaders put the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, on notice that they were prepared for a winter of unrest if not consulted over the austerity plan.