'must face pension reform'
BBC news online
on national television, Mr Berlusconi appealed to the electorate to back
his government's plans to reform
Berlusconi said his government was determined to make changes that would
provide Italians with greater "security and well-being", and
said opponents of change were deceiving the public.
union leaders dismissed Mr Berlusconi's appeal, and said the issue had
been blown out of proportion.
is no pensions emergency in
out of cash
independent observers say
low birth rate and widespread early retirement has drained the system dry
in recent years, and by some measures it is already insolvent.
Berlusconi's government wants to tighten up the criteria under which
Italians qualify for a state pension, much to the fury of the country's
on Monday, the three main labour federations announced they would meet on
Saturday to decide what action to take against the reform plans, including
a possible general strike.
The row over pensions comes
as the government approves its 2004 budget, which proposes sweeping cuts
in state expenditure.