Italian truck drivers kicked off a weeklong protest against higher fuel taxes and road tolls on Monday by blocking highways from the southern container port of Gioia Tauro to the northern industrial cities of Milan and Turin.
The drivers also are demanding a ceiling on insurance premiums, easier reimbursement of duty on diesel fuel and a government crackdown on unlicensed trucking companies blamed for driving down freight rates. Supporters are protesting government plans to liberalize the industry by increasing the number of licenses and allowing drivers to transfer from one city to another. Trucking unions have vowed to strike until January 27, threatening to halt the movement of cargoes to and from ports, especially containers.
The nationwide truckers strike follows a week-long stoppage in Sicily last week, which seriously disrupted the delivery of food and fuel across the island.
Gas station owners also are set to strike this week to protest government plans to deregulate the sector to spur competition. Train workers are expected to walk off the job too, threatening further disruption to freight traffic to and from the nation’s ports.
The Italian government is planning to deregulate a wide swath of protected professions, from taxi drivers, and lawyers to pharmacists, to spark economic activity in one of the euro zone’s slowest growing economies. The deregulation program follows deep spending cuts and steep tax hikes agreed by Parliament in December aimed at reining in Europe’s second largest public debt.
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