2008-10-17 15:43US main stream media fails to mention it......
Strike brings Italy to a halt
Trains, planes, trams and Venice water buses stopped (ANSA) - Rome, October 17 - Tourists and residents were forced to brave the rain on foot Friday as a general strike against government reforms called by grass-roots unions brought public transport in big cities to a halt.
Protest marches paralysed traffic in Rome, Milan and Turin, and unions described the strike as ''a success beyond our wildest dreams''.
In Rome unions claimed some 300,000 people took part in the main rally at Piazza San Giovanni to protest against low salaries and temporary contracts for workers across various sectors as well as school reforms and health cuts.
In Milan around 50,000 people turned up for a similar rally at Piazza Duomo, and local police described the traffic situation in the city as ''chaotic''.
'Vaporetti' water buses in Venice were also down to a reduced service, with around 48% of operators adhering to the strike. Children left alone in classrooms made desperate calls to their parents to come and pick them up as teachers deserted schools to join marches, and in Rome police in riot gear guarded the entrance to the education ministry to prevent access by protesting university and high-school students.
''The protest's enormous, extraordinary success demonstrates, despite the driving rain, that workers, students and teachers not only have no intention of keeping quiet but they want to continue to battle against a racist, classist government that helps bankers and speculators but does nothing for the general population,'' said Italian Communists' Party leader Paolo Ferrero.
Education Minister Maria Stella Gelmini said the strike was the result of ''a campaign of misinformation'' on the reforms from opposition parties trying to create public alarm.
Bus, tram and local train services are guaranteed during special time windows to allow Italians to get back and forth to work. These windows vary from city to city.
National rail company Trenitalia said long- and medium-haul trains were not affected by the strike.
A handful of international and domestic flights were canceled.
BBC, Op-Ed News,