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Italy’s far-right premier addresses country’s oldest union

MILAN (AP) — Premier Giorgia Meloni on Friday became the first Italian leader in nearly 30 years to address the annual meeting of the nation’s largest, oldest and most left-wing CGIL union confederation.

Meloni, who heads post-war Italy’s first far-right led government, was met with a chorus of vocal protests as she took the podium, but the audience remained silent during her nearly 30-minute remarks that included her government’s plans to create jobs and ease the overall tax burden on workers.

She received one round of applause, when she mentioned extreme-right attacks against CGIL offices, but immediately followed that up with a reference to left-wing attacks on Italian diplomatic targets abroad.

Meloni told the gathering in the Adriatic seaside city of Rimini that despite their different views “we are working with the same goal, which is the for the good of our nation. If this is the spirit, then the confrontation is necessary, fundamental, inevitable and useful.”

Meloni said she wanted to increase worker salaries in Italy, “the only country in Europe where they are lower than in 1990 – to make myself clear, that is before we had mobile phones – while in countries like Germany and France they have grown by as much as 30%.”

But she rejected a proposal by the new Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein to create a minimum salary that the premier said would weaken existing protections.

“I think the better path is to extend collective contracts to sectors not covered,’’ she said, and to combat illegal job contracts and give fiscal advantages to companies that higher full-time permanent workers and employ more women.

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