National agreement signed for postal workers

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In July 2003, a new national collective agreement for Italy's 200,000 postal workers was signed by Poste Italiane SpA and sectoral trade unions. The deal provides for a 7.5%. pay increase over two years, as well as introducing a new job classification system and greater flexibility in working time and forms of employment.

The Italian postal service has recently been privatised and the managing body, Poste Italiane SpA, has made some important structural changes which are now giving positive results - Massimo Sarmi, the Poste Italiane SpA managing director, has recently stated that in the 2002 business year the postal service recorded profits for the first time in its history. Furthermore, services are regarded as having improved significantly, compared with the previous situation, when the post was not punctual or reliable, driving many users to have recourse to private competitors offering on-time and guaranteed local, national and international services, often at lower costs

On 11 July 2003, after months of negotiations, a new collective agreement was signed for the 200,000 postal workers by Poste Italiane SpA, the sectoral trade union organisations affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacato Lavoratori, Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil) - Slc, Slp and Uil-poste respectively - and the independent General Labour Union (Unione Generale del Lavoro, Ugl). The agreement reflects the company's new management structure and the private-sector oriented industrial relations system which is regarded as having helped Poste SpA to recover its competitiveness.

The most important innovations made by the agreement concern the introduction of flexibility in working time and employment forms and a new job classification system. The main points of the deal are as follows.

  • The agreed weekly working time of 36 hours remains unchanged, but the partners have agreed on a more flexible daily distribution of working time. Work will be organised, on a rotation basis, in five- and six-day shifts. Lower-level bargaining will define multi-week working time schedules which will involve workers, on a rotation basis, working on Saturdays. The agreement also regulates mandatory work on holidays, night work and overtime work. Each worker will have to work overtime, and on holidays and at night, unless they have an 'acceptable' justification for not doing so. Lower-level bargaining will define the procedures and methods for operating an 'hours bank', in which overtime hours will be saved.
  • Fixed-term employment contracts may not exceed 8% of the overall workforce. If both fixed-term employment contracts and temporary agency work are used, the number of workers hired on these flexible employment forms may not exceed 14% of the workers employed in the region concerned. With regard to other forms of work flexibility, the agreement permits temporary agency work and telework, with the latter to be introduced on an experimental basis. A joint observatory on telework will be set up to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of these experiments. Furthermore, 'vertical' (ie comprised of working days similar to those of full-time workers, but with the number of working days reduced), 'horizontal' (with reduced hours every day) or 'mixed' part-time contracts will be possible, though these may not exceed 10% of full-time contracts at regional level - a figure which may be increased by half by national agreement
  • Decentralised collective bargaining will deal with collective transfers resulting from possible company reorganisation or workforce-reduction processes.
  • The agreement introduces a new job classification system with seven levels instead of the current four. In order to manage the development of the new system, a 12-member joint committee on job classification will be set up within three months after the signature of the agreement.
  • The agreement redefines the current collective bargaining structure, entrusting the national sectoral collective agreement with the regulation of all labour-related issues and of all regulatory and economic aspects, and decentralised 'second-level' bargaining with particular competences and fields of action. The agreement also acknowledges the fundamental role played by employee participation, which is considered 'an important method for the overall improvement of the quality of labour and of the working environment'. The partners have decided to 'consolidate and develop the activities of the national joint observatory, of the joint body for training and of the equal opportunities committee'.
  • The agreement provides for a monthly gross wage increase of EUR 100.45, or about 7.5%, for the two-year period 2003-4. Wage increases will be paid in three instalments, in March, June and September 2004. Postal workers will also receive a one-off payment of EUR 1,000 for the period between the expiry of the previous agreement (IT0102174N) and the conclusion of the new one. The new agreement also provides for performance-related pay linked to the achievement of objectives set at the beginning of the year for each operating unit.

Mr Sarmi, managing director of Poste Italiane SpA, is very satisfied with the agreement and attaches a great deal of importance to the innovations it introduces, in particular the flexibility provisions which allow the company 'to organise labour in relation to intense workloads and to employ personnel according to market needs'. According to Fulvio Fammoni, the general secretary of Slc-Cgil, the trade unions are very happy with the agreement, and in particular with their united approach in the negotiations.

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