Italy protests spread against Monti, truckers block roads

Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:06pm GMT

By Hanna Rantala

ROME (Reuters) - Truckers blocked roads throughout Italy and taxi drivers resumed a strike on Monday as opposition mounted to fuel tax rises and economic reforms aimed at opening up competition in protected sectors including transport and pharmacies.

Roads and highways from Gioia Tauro in southern Calabria to Turin in the north were hit as truckers extended a protest against rises in fuel prices that caused severe disruption in Sicily last week.

The protests are set to escalate, as numerous labour categories affected by the measures, including railway workers, petrol station owners, pharmacists and lawyers have announced strikes over the next few weeks.

Speaking on RAI state radio, Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri said authorities were following the protests "with close attention."

"We cannot rule out this discontent leading to protests of a different kind," she said, in an apparent concern that the situation could get out of control.

The protests underline the growing opposition to Prime Minister Mario Monti's plans, approved by the cabinet on Friday, to deregulate protected sectors of Italy's economy to boost competition and create more jobs.

The measures come on top of tough spending cuts and tax rises passed by parliament in December, including a fuel tax increase that pushed the price of petrol up 8.2 cents a litre to about 1.76 euros and that of diesel up 11.2 cents to 1.71 euros.

PARLIAMENT   Continued...

A view of Naples north highway is seen during a truckers' protest against the government's deregulation plans in Naples January 23, 2012. REUTERS/ Ciro De Luca
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