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Italy's labor market reform moves ahead
Italian premier's office expects rapid approval of key labor market reforms
By The Associated Press

ROME (AP) ' Italy's government says it expects quick parliamentary approval of its key labor market reforms after the plan was backed by parties across the political spectrum.

Premier Mario Monti's office has called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to illustrate details of the reform, which includes the contentious issue of making it easier to fire workers together with other measures to bring more young people into the work force and end discriminatory measures against women.

Earlier, Monti's office anounced the cross-party backing for the plan and confirmed that political leaders, including the head of the leftist Democrat party, have committed to a "rapid passage" of the reforms when it is voted on in parliament.

The overhaul of the country's labor practices is a key part of Monti's economic reforms and one closely watched by the financial markets. Rigid rules on hiring and difficulties in firing have long been considered discouragements to foreign investment in Italy.

The proposal to make it easier to fire workers has already been watered down to meet demands by parties of the left.

Political leaders agreed on a compromise that would raise the burden of proof on an employer to supply reasons why he can't rehire a worker fired due to economic difficulties. Monti's original measure allowed only for damages if financial difficulty was not proven.

The measures also call for either damages or reinstatement in cases where discrimination is proven, or if a disciplinary action was not justified.

Italy's largest labor confederation, CGIL, has not dropped its opposition to the reforms and has pledged a general strike.

Monti also dismissed reports that Italy will require further austerity measures this year beyond what his government has already imposed.

But Monti, an economist by profession, cautioned in an interview in the Turin daily La Stampa that economic growth "is not possible in the short-term."

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