ITALY- The general secretary of one of the three biggest Italian trade unions has said pensioners will bear the brunt of the forthcoming 2005 budget, which the government promises will bring 6.5 billion euros in tax cuts.

Guglielmo Epifani has tacked the topic of the budget, or Legge Finnaziaria, which is traditionally voted by parliament by the end of the year saying it was “a good present for the rich paid for by pensioners”.

“Berlusconi is a backhand Robin Hood who takes away from the poor to reward the rich,” Epifani commented on the eve of a general strike set up by Ggil and the two other major unions, Cisl and Uil, to protest against next year’s budget.

“Paradoxically there are categories who will pay but will have nothing in return,” he told the press, citing pensioners as an example of penalised category.

“A big majority of pensioners will not even be remotely touched by tax cuts. The word ‘pensioner’ has vanished from Finanziaria.”

Epifani said that only two percent of the population would materially benefit from the budget, which has been marketed by the government as a tax-cuts turning point.

“We are still reasonably confident that we will be able to represent our members’ needs before the law is actually voted,” a spokesman for Uil told Ipe.

Uil, however, declined to give an estimate of the number of participants who will take to the streets of different cities throughout the country to protest.

The unions and Confindustria, the employers’ representative body, have also asked for a joint meeting with prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to talk about the budget for the next year.

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Confindustria’s president, has been recently quoted as commenting: “We are stuck in the bogs of short-term electoral tactics that do not face the few but serious problems for the future of the country, this is serious.”