ITALY– The three leading trade unions, Cgil, Cisl, Uil are to meet at the general assembly decide whether to call for a general strike in protest to the pension reform.

It’s the first such meeting since 1989.

The date of the general assembly, March 10, was announced yesterday after a meeting of the leaders of Confererazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil, Confererazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl and Unione Italiana del lavoro, Uil. The union meeting followed a meeting with the government.

In the run up to the assembly the three unions have agreed to prepare a joint document to highlight their priorities, a Cisl spokesperson said.

The document would be presented at the general meeting by the leaders of Cigl, Cisl and Uil - respectively Guglielmo Epifani, Savino Pezzotta e Luigi Angeletti.

“Our priorities are going to be of a social nature. We want to talk about the growing poverty, the decline of the purchasing power, the question of the pensions.”

“The meeting is important because it is the first of its kind for 15 years.” The official added: “Nothing will be excluded, not even a general strike.”

The unions are also committed to lobbying members of parliament to “make those amendments to pension_reform that the government did not make”.

Changes to meet the unions’ requests, like abandoning the idea of ‘decontribuzione’ that would have made labour costs cheaper, have already been made by the government.

But, the Cisl official said, the pension reform still did not convince the unions.

Officially called ‘Delega Maroni’ after welfare minister Roberto Maroni, the reform still envisages pushing up the age threshold for retirement from 57 years to 60 from 2008, to save 0.7% of the gross national product.

Employers’ association Confindustria criticised the government for abandoning the ‘decontribuzione’ issue and said in an official statement: “This reform only takes the side of older workers.”

Meanwhile Maroni was reported by the Italian press to have said that “the reform will happen far before June” – when European and local elections are to take place.