Agreement signed for atypical workers in market research
In December 2000, the social partners in the Italian market research and opinion polls sector signed a first national collective agreement covering non-dependent "atypical" workers who perform freelance and similar work for companies in the sector. The deal is the first result of trade union efforts to lay down the principles which regulate individual employment relationships for such workers through collectively agreements. The regulation of this form of employment is currently under parliamentary discussion.
On 15 December 2000, a national collective agreement regulating "non-subordinate" employment relationships was signed by New Work Identities (Nuove Identità di Lavoro, Nidil) - the "atypical" workers' federation affiliated to the Cgil trade union confederation - and the Assirm employers' association, representing market research and public-opinion polling companies. Assirm's members include the main Italian research institutes (such as Abacus and Doxa) specialising in opinion poll surveys through telephone interviews. The new agreement covers about 7,000 "atypical" workers working both within and outside these companies.
The agreement is significant in political terms because it anticipates some of the contents of the draft law regulating the conditions applying to consultancy and freelance work "coordinated" by an employer, which is currently under discussion in parliament (IT0011273F). The signatories of the market research agreement are aware of its importance and have thus included an introductory declaration that they will do their utmost to urge parliament to approve a law which is consistent with the principles laid out in the agreement, in order to protect workers and to discourage recourse to illegal work which distorts competition.
The main objective of the market research sector agreement is to provide workers and companies with a series of guidelines for drawing up individual contracts, which must be drafted each time that a new task is assigned to a non-dependent worker. The individual contract must set out:
- the length of the "collaboration";
- the possibility for the worker to refuse successive assignments in the same activity;
- the amount of remuneration, bonuses and reimbursements, and the way in which they will be paid. The agreement lays down basic pay rates for some of activities - eg ITL 12,000 (EUR 6.5) per hour for conducting telephone interviews;
- an obligation on the employer to provide a letter of intent prior to each planned collaboration with the worker;
- the terms of payment for work performed - 60 days after the submission of the work or the conclusion of the provision of the service - and the interest to be paid in the event of delayed payment (calculated from the date of the submission of the work or conclusion of the service provision);
- a premium of 20% on normal pay for work performed at night (from 22.00 to 06.00), and of 15% for work performed on Sundays and public holidays;
- a premium of at least 10% on normal pay for worked performed outside the municipality where the worker lives, with the company obliged to reimburse accommodation and travel expenses;
- a provision that any comments by the company on the quality of the work submitted or activity performed must be communicated to the worker within 10 days of the submission of the work or the conclusion of the provision of the service;
- a provision that, if a planned activity or project is suspended in advance due to causes outside the company, this must be communicated to the worker concerned within five days. If workers have already started a project which is then suspended, they must be paid for the work done and receive 5% of the value of the work unperformed, unless the company offers an equivalent job;
- the notice period that the company must observe in terminating open-ended non-subordinate "collaboration" contracts, and a requirement for notice to be given in writing, with an explanation of the reasons behind the ending of the employment relationship. The notice that the worker must give in order to end the employment relationship is half that required for termination by the employer;
- a provision that, in the event of maternity, sickness or accidents, the worker's contract will be suspended (for five months in the case of maternity leave, two months in the case of sickness leave with hospitalisation, and until the recovery of the worker in cases of workplace accidents). On the worker's return to work, the contract will be resumed;
- a requirement on companies to observe the rest-breaks laid down by law 626/94 on health and safety at work; and
- an entitlement for atypical workers to hold meetings in rooms made available by the company for at least six hours per year, divided into no more than three occasions.
The social partners will discuss vocational training issues at a later date. Furthermore, in order to identify the skills required for the various occupations involved, the partners have decided to create an observatory within three months of the conclusion of the agreement. This observatory will analyse and describe the occupational profiles of the atypical workers concerned and develop a series of parameters which companies will be able to use in order to define remuneration.
The agreement provides for the establishment of a "guarantee authority", composed of three representatives each of employers and Cgil-Nidil, which will be responsible for resolving disputes between companies and contractors, on the basis of the terms of the individual contract and the national sectoral collective agreement. The agreement will be reviewed every six months and, if this form of work is regulated by law, the partners will modify the agreement in line with the legislation.
The social partners welcomed the agreement. For Assirm, Leonardo Abruzzese stressed the innovatory role of the agreement: "the conclusion of the agreement anticipates the parliamentary work on preparing national regulations on quasi-subordinate employment and unites in a single framework a series of fragmentary agreements". Amedeo Iacovella, the Cgil-Nidil official responsible for Milan (where 70% of the companies covered by the agreement are located), said that the agreement, which was reached after seven months of negotiations, represents "a good start for the extension of collectively agreed guarantees to all atypical workers".
Although the agreement has been signed only by Cgil-Nidil, this does not represent a break with the other unions represented in this sector, which will also share the results achieved.