ITALY – Italy’s pension reform, which the centre-right government embarked on more than 18 months ago, is likely to be approved tomorrow without a vote of confidence.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been reported in the last couple of weeks as saying he would ask for a vote of confidence to bring the draft of the bill, already approved by the senate, through its last stage in the lower chamber of parliament.

But according to a spokeswoman of the opposition party DS, the government has “all the numbers” to rush the bill through by tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday at the latest.

The spokeswoman told IPE the lower chamber would start voting on the 109 amendments suggested by the opposition today. It follows an examination by lower chamber’s Labour Committee.

But before this first vote takes place, the opposition is poised to formalise its dissent today through a motion, known as Pregiudiziale di Costituzionalita’.

Members of the lower chamber will be asked to vote on accepting or rejecting the opposition’s stance that the reform would not conform to the constitution. If accepted, the Pregiudiziale could block votes on the bill.

The DS spokeswoman said the motion was likely to be rejected, leaving MPs to vote on the pension reform without further ado.

“This is the only thing we can do to oppose the reform we do not approve of. But otherwise we feel our Pregiudizilae di Costituzionalita’ could not possibly halt nor delay it,” she said.

The spokesman for Cisl, which with Cigl and Uil, represents the majority of workers in the country, said they regarded the chapter of pension reform as “closed”.

“We have said it again and again and I confirm it today, we do not see this reform positively,” he told IPE.

He continued that the unions were preparing to lobby at the end of the summer when the bill undergoes the “decree implementation” stage, which allows for small alterations before the reform is implemented in 2008.

The Welfare Ministry confirmed that “everything was in an embryo phase” but confirmed the amendments would be voted by the end of today’s session and that the whole reform bill could be voted between tomorrow and Thursday.