New agreement signed for postal workers

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In January 2001, a new collective agreement was signed after two years of negotiations at Poste Italiane SpA, the public limited company created as part of the privatisation of Italian postal services. The most innovative aspects of the agreement, which deals with the switch from public to private sector employment, include: a new bargaining structure; flexible working time arrangements; pay increases linked to productivity; and the introduction of a supplementary pension fund.

On 11 January 2001, a new national collective agreement was signed for the 155,000 employees of the company which runs Italian postal services, Poste Italiane SpA, covering the period 1998-2001 (the previous agreement expired in 1997). The deal was signed, in the presence of the under-secretary of state, Ornella Piloni, by management representatives, the three confederal postal workers' trade unions - Slc-Cgil, Slp-Cisl and Uil-poste- and the autonomous unions, Ugl comunicazioni, Failp-Cisal and Sailp-Confsal.

As well as postal services, the agreement also covers the other companies belonging to the Poste Italiane SpA group, which employ about 15,000 people: Poste Vita (insurance); Sim Poste (brokerage services); Sda Express Courier (package and mail delivery services); Postecom (sales and purchases by mail order); Bancoposta fondi (savings services); and Postel (electronic mail).

Up until 1998, the Italian postal system was managed by the state-owned Ente Poste. On 28 February 1998, Ente Poste was transformed into a public limited company (Poste Italiane SpA), while many postal services previously under the state monopoly were liberalised and privatised. The changes brought about by the privatisation of the postal sector as well as Poste Italiane SpA's corporate plan for the period 1998-2002 have deeply affected the Italian postal service and its industrial relations system (IT9807175N). Major disagreements between the trade unions and Poste Italiane SpA management meant that the new collective agreement took two difficult years to negotiate, with two sector-wide strikes (in June 1999 and December 2000) and many tensions and differences among the trade unions.

The new national collective agreement deals with the change from public to private employment. It introduces a new private sector-type bargaining structure. In compliance with the 1993 national intersectoral agreement on incomes policy and bargaining structures (IT9803223F), the new agreement sets up two bargaining levels in postal services: a national sectoral level and a decentralised level. Within Poste Italiane SpA, the decentralised level will be the regional level, while for its subsidiary companies the decentralised level will be the company level. Decentralised bargaining will be responsible for dealing with the productivity- and competitiveness-related pay system, working time, and the social consequences of the company's reorganisation and transformation processes. A fund of more than ITL 500 billion (EUR 258 million) has been established for the decentralised pay negotiations.

The agreement also provides for:

  • information and consultation procedures for Rsu workplace employee representative bodies (IT9911348F) which are consistent with the collectively agreed procedures set out in private sector national sectoral collective agreements;
  • the creation of a national observatory to analyse the development of competition and working conditions within the sector;
  • the creation of a joint body to oversee vocational training and retraining;
  • the creation of equal opportunity committees at national and regional levels. These will be composed of six company representatives and one representative of each signatory trade union, and will take action to promote equal opportunities between women and men and protect female employment. To this end, the committees will promote "studies and research on the principle of equality" and adopt measures "to eliminate all the obstacles which prevent the implementation of equal opportunities";
  • all forms of employment provided for by law will be introduced, with the exception of temporary agency work. Instead of temporary agency work, the post office will be able to employ workers on fixed-term contracts (no more than 3% of the total personnel). Part-time employment will also be increased. The working time for part-time employees will be decided by the company and the worker concerned. Workers who switch to part-time work can go back to full-time work at the end of a certain period;
  • working time arrangements will be negotiated according to users' needs, guaranteeing afternoon opening of offices, including those in outlying areas. Employees will be free to decide whether to distribute their 36-hour working week on five or six days per week. Daily working time may be flexible, with workers able to vary starting and finishing times by one hour. Alternatively, they can decide to have a one- or two-hour break or to work in shifts. In the latter case, the shift may not be longer than eight hours per day, and the working week of 36 hours must be respected;
  • the old job classification system was found to be inappropriate for the company's new organisation. The partners will meet during the first half of 2001 to define a new job classification system to be applied from 2002;
  • a "pay increase "of ITL 160,000 (EUR 83) per month from 1 October 2001. In order to make up for the delay in signing the new agreement, two payments of ITL 840,000 (EUR 434) and ITL 280,000 (EUR 145) will be awarded to all employees in January 2001 and January 2002 respectively. Pay was a major issue of dispute during the negotiations; and
  • the establishment of a supplementary occupational pension fund. Workers will be able to join this fund on a voluntary basis. The employer and the employee will contribute to the fund equally, with an initial monthly contribution of ITL 25,000 (EUR 13) each.

The trade unions are satisfied with the agreement. Nino Sorgi of Slp-Cisl said that "the agreement meets workers' needs without hindering company reorganisation." Fulvio Fammoni, the general secretary of Slc-Cgil, stated that "there was a need for new rules able to protect and reward the role of labour in this phase of organisational changes. The choice to adopt the rules of 1993 agreement was the right decision". The minister of telecommunications, Salvatore Cardinali, underlined the innovative aspects of the agreement, which "goes beyond the previous agreement, because it introduces employment flexibility". Poste Italiane SpA believes that the agreement allows for the economic recovery and increased competitiveness foreseen by its corporate plan agreed with the government.

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