‘We want our jobs!’ Thousands march against Italian labor reforms (VIDEO)

‘We want our jobs!’ Thousands march against Italian labor reforms (VIDEO)
Some 40,000 protesters took to the streets of Rome on Friday, as Italy was gripped by protests against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's reforms. Demonstrations turned violent in Milan and Turin as protesters clashed with police.

A general strike called by CGIL and UIL, two of Italy’s major trade unions, prompted huge rallies in over 50 cities nationwide. The unions have denounced government reforms, claiming they pose a threat to job security.

Strikers believe the burden of reform is being placed unfairly on workers.

"We want jobs and you can't create jobs by cutting the rights of the workers. We want to reclaim our rights, we want democracy, which they are stealing, together with the dignity of the Italian people and the workers," a protestor told ABC.

Renzi has defended the reform program, saying that Italy, which is in the midst of a three-year recession – the longest since WWII – needs mobility of labor in order to jump-start the economy. Protestors, however, disagree. Thousands marched under the banner “Cosi non va!,” which roughly translates to “This is unacceptable!”

“I think it is right to strike, it is time, we need to start moving things. We need to start playing our part as citizens and workers,” Rome commuter Loriana Blasi said, as quoted by Reuters.

Officials in Milan and Turin said that several arrests were made following scuffles between police and protestors. Videos show officers in riot gear charging at demonstrators who threw fire crackers and other objects, according to Reuters.

The strike has affected those working in public transport, hospitals, schools, and civil administrations. Union officials say that around 70 percent of their members participated in the demonstrations.

Rally organizers were pleased with the turnout.

"Today there has been an extraordinary response from workers opposed to the Renzi government's policies," Maurizio Landini, one of the best-known and most militant of Italy's union leaders, told a crowd in the northern city of Genoa, AFP reported.

"The piazzas are full, not just here in Genoa but in all of Italy," he said.

Protesters directed much of their ire at the Jobs Act, a measure meant to curb youth unemployment, which currently stands at 43 percent – the fourth highest in the EU. The Jobs Act makes it easier for employers to fire workers without high severance packages. Though the bill received parliamentary approval last week, it has not yet been implemented.

On Thursday, Renzi announced that although he respects the union’s right to strike, he plans to proceed with his program, which union officials have condemned as counterproductive.

Demonstrators clash with anti riot carabinieri during a march as part of a general strike called by several trade union organisations to protest against the government's economic policy, on December 12, 2014 in Milan (AFP Photo / Giuseppe Cacace)

"The government has to change its policies on employment," Susanna Camusso, head of Italy’s largest union, was quoted as saying by Reuters. "The Jobs Act and the budget do nothing to revive the economy and create jobs."

EU pressure on Italy to meet deficit and debt targets has been mounting. The European Commission and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both pressed Rome to deliver faster results.