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Union Workers Stage Rally in Rome

May 14, 1999

ROME (AP) _ Tens of thousands of metalworkers, taking special trains and buses, converged on the capital today for a mass rally to push demands for shorter hours and more pay.

The protest comes amid warnings that Italy’s economy is heading toward a recession, and industrialists are saying they have to hang tough to keep the country competitive on the world market.

Union leaders predicted that some 150,000 people were coming to the rally. Police said they had no immediate crowd estimate.

Union leader Pietro Larizza called on the government to mediate the dispute. Another leader, Sergio Cofferati, urged the government to press management to reduce workers’ hours.

Numbering some 1.7 million, metalworkers make up Italy’s largest category of unionized labor. Many of them work for the country’s largest private-sector employer, the automaker Fiat.

Two years ago, government intervention helped workers gain a new contract including pay raises. That contract expired on Dec. 31.

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