Italians worked fewer hours in the first six months of 2005 than during the same period in 2004 all because of strikes. From January to June this year, over 3.4 million working hours were lost as a direct result of labour disputes, according to Italys national institute for statistics (Istat). This figure is almost 20 per cent up on the same period in 2004. Mechanics and metalworking industries have suffered the most, these sectors alone representing some 569,000 lost hours. Over half the total hours lost some 1.7 million have been blamed on disputes over contract renewals. Putting this in context, some 46 per cent of the working population was awaiting renewal of its contracts in August.