ROME - Some one million Italians took to the streets of Rome on Saturday for a demonstration organised by Italy's largest trade union to protest Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's plans to overhaul the labour market.
As hundreds of thousands of Italians snaked through the capital calling for Renzi to do more to boost employment and protect the rights of new entries to the job market, organisers put the number of protesters at one million and called on the premier to take note.
"We want work for everyone, and work with rights. This is a demonstration for those without work, without rights, those who suffer, who have no certainties for the future," Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL, told the crowds.
"We are here and we're not going away. We will strike, and use all our strength to fight to change this government's policies," she said, announcing the unions would hold another demo on November 8.
Renzi's measures "are not sufficient to change the path Italy is on," she added.
Thousands of young people from all over the country waved the red flags of the CGIL, singing the national anthem and letting off flares in front of the Colosseum to say 'no' to the so-called "Jobs Act".
"He said he wanted to see us and count us. Here we are Renzi, count us!", a protester in Rome's San Giovanni's square yelled with a megaphone.
Youth unemployment in the eurozone's third largest economy stands at a record 44.2 per cent and those who do manage to find work are often employed on temporary contracts which offer little in the way of security or benefits.
"We want investments in the future," one young person shouted, while another held up a banner with a sarcastic "thanks for the 'solution' to our problems Renzi", and a picture of someone vomiting.
"We have no intention of giving up. Renzi must know that to change the country, he needs us, those here in the streets of Rome today," said Maurizio Landini, head of the FIOM union, which joined the CGIL protest.
Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is split over the proposed measures, with the deepest division caused by a debate over the future of Article 18, a law which currently protects those who are unfairly dismissed.
In his bid to reboot Italy's economy and lure in foreign investors, Renzi wants to make it easier for companies to fire people and introduce a system by which job protection and benefits are earned by workers over time.
But unions and many on the left are furious over the mooted changes and he has been accused of being a Thatcherite.
While Italians are quick to take to the streets to protest, this is the first large demonstration by unions against the PD, with which they have historic ties.
As the 39-year old was in Florence on Saturday addressing the "Leopolda" - an annual meeting he founded in 2009 to bring leaders and the public together to talk about the future of Italy - rebels from the PD joined the protests in Rome.
PD stalwart and rebel Rosy Bindi said Renzi had engineered a "counter-protest" at the Florence meeting, which she slammed as "utterly embarrassing." Italy narrowly escaped its third recession in the last six years this month after a change in data calculations across the European Union, but the country has forecast a debt to GDP ratio of 133.4 per cent in 2015 - more than twice the EU ceiling.
"The CGIL is protesting against a reform which aims to create work. It is protesting to defend the past, but we want to build a future for our young people," deputy prime minister Angelino Alfano was quoted as saying by Italian media.