ITALY - Welfare minister Roberto Maroni has ruled out negotiations on pension reform with the country’s main trade unions Cigl, Cisl, Uil.

Maroni described a meeting yesterday with the unions as a consultation, not negotiations “called for by the unions to tell the government of their doubts on the reform”.

“I rule out a negotiation for which I see no reasonable chance of coming to an agreement,” Maroni was quoted as saying by the AGI news agency, which runs a service on behalf of the government.

“I read from the newspapers that the unions do not think an agreement is possible, so it think it unnecessary to open new talks, knowing full well that there is no agreement whatever.”

Talks on pension reform are set to conclude on January 10.

“There will be no need to carry on with meetings. It is not planned to open a negotiation that we have already closed. We will go no further than January 10.”

Under the proposed pension reform, which brought thousands of workers to the street in protest in October, the retirement age will be raised by five years to keep people in their jobs for longer as well as encourage them to join private pension schemes.

The unions’ lobbying for negotiations was described as “legitimate”, by Maroni’s ministerial colleague Alessandro Alemanno.

But Maroni said: “If someone prefers that the reform never takes place, he would better say it clearly. I cannot see what should be reviewed since the government has approved it unanimously, including minister Alemanno.”

Maroni has already rejected a call from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for speedier pension reform, saying the government has already put forward the best pension reform proposals.