TENS of thousands of Italians protested in Rome and Milan on Saturday against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his government’s austerity measures.

In Rome, public service employees, families, school pupils and students took part in the demonstration organised by trade union CGIL under the motto: “Without the public (sector) you’re deprived of your rights.”

The protests targeted the public sector job cuts that are part of austerity measures worth a total of 90 billion euros ($A124.74 billion), aimed at balancing the Italian budget by 2013.

Trade union representatives warned that a total of 300,000 jobs could end up being cut in the five-year period leading to 2013.

However, demonstrators also criticised scandal-ridden Berlusconi.

“The international financial markets reject bunga bunga,” read one placard, in reference to sex parties that allegedly took place at the premier’s house.

The protests came a day after rating agency Fitch downgraded Italy’s creditworthiness to A+, following similar moves by agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

In Milan, the protest was joined by author Roberto Saviano, who won international acclaim for his book Gomorrah, about the Neapolitan Mafia.

Meanwhile, Italian author Umberto Eco issued a rallying call in a statement published by the organisers of the Milan march.

“In this appalling decline of Italian political life, let’s give voice to a civil society that is still sane, so that it will also be understood abroad that we are the true Italy,” Eco wrote.

 

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