of protesters waved red and green union flags, sang traditional labour
songs and held placards reading "defend your future".
government says reforms are needed to ease Italy's public pensions burden,
the biggest in Europe per capita.
unions, who brought in protesters on 3,000 buses and 40 trains, say a 1995
reform has averted any crisis brought on by an ageing population.
said up to 250,000 people attended the rally, which follows a four-hour
general strike in October observed by millions of workers.
said the protest had attracted one and a half million people.
rhythms of the Tarantella, a traditional Italian dance, workers,
pensioners, families and the unemployed poured into Piazza san Giovanni,
one of Rome's biggest squares.
we're not on the streets to bring down the government but to get it to
change course and adopt new policies," Savino Pezzotta told the
crowd, news agency AFP reported.
leader of CISL, one of the three main Italian unions which organised
"[Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi had better listen to the
street," warned Guglielmo Epifani, leader of the left-wing CGIL
three unions together represent 11 million of Italy's 23 million workers.
Berlusconi is determined to reduce the burden on pensions, which now
account for 15.7% of Italy's gross domestic product compared to a European
average of 13%.
coalition government wants to increase the contributions period from 35
years to 40, and to encourage Italians to work to 60 or 65. Many currently
retire on full benefits at 57.
the unions say this reform is unjust and ineffective, and are refusing any
further dialogue until the government withdraws the proposals.
among the colorful and noisy crowd also contested the general economic
policy of the Berlusconi government, says the BBC correspondent in Rome,
claim the spending power of workers and pensioners is being eroded by
measures that favor the wealthy, she says.
A large union demonstration in 1994 against any changes to the pension system is considered one of the factors in the early fall of Mr Berlusconi's first government, says our correspondent.