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Biggest strike for 14 years

ITALY

Forty per cent of teachers stayed at home in the biggest strike for 14 years on October 9, forcing one in two schools to close. The strike, called by the major unions, was followed by further day of action by the "grass roots" teachers' unions, COBAS and GILDA, on Monday.

Teachers are incensed by the government's "miserable" offer of a pound;10 per month pay rise. Their salaries, at an average of pound;750 a month after tax, are among the lowet in Europe. The big unions are asking for after-tax pay to rise to around pound;900 a month by the end of the three-year contract under negotiation. The more radical COBAS wants a 500,000 lire (pound;166) a month rise from January, sabbatical leave, and a moratorium on reforms.

With a general election looming in the spring, the centre-left government will need to come up with a better offer if it wants to keep a traditional slice of its vote.

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