A general strike is disrupting transport across Italy as rallies get under way in more than 50 cities, including the capital Rome.
Trade unions are protesting against the government’s bid to reform labour laws.
They insist the current regulations are necessary to protect workers from being sacked by unscrupulous companies.
But Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says the planned reforms are essential for his government to lift Italy’s economy out of years of stagnation.
He believes employment laws must be loosened to boost the labour market and has made the new legislation the centrepiece of his government’s policies.
Thousands of union members took to the streets on Friday morning from Milan in the north to Palermo in the south.
The general strike shut down basic services like local transport and ports across Italy and left many schools closed.