Metalworking unions adopt common platform for renewal of industry agreement

In April 2007, the metalworkers’ trade unions, Fiom-Cgil, Cisl-Fim and Uilm-Uil, agreed on a common bargaining platform for the renewal of an industry-wide agreement in the metalworking sector. Alongside the demand for significant pay increases, the more innovative aspects of the platform concern work organisation, atypical contracts, trade union relations and rights for migrant workers. However, initial reactions from the sectoral employer organisation have been negative.

On 12 April 2007, the metalworkers’ trade unions affiliated to the three main trade union confederations agreed on a common list of proposals for the renewal of an industry-wide agreement in the metalworking sector. The agreement was signed by the Italian Federation of White-Collar and Blue-Collar Metalworkers (Federazione Italiana Operai Metalmeccanici, Fiom-Cgil), the Italian Federation of Metalworkers (Federazione Italiana Metalmeccanici, Fim-Cisl) and the Italian Metalworkers’ Union (Unione Italiana Lavoratori Metalmeccanici, Uilm-Uil), and signals the restoration of unity among the sectoral trade unions.

In fact, the last common bargaining platform for the renewal of the national collective agreement dates back to 1998; that joint position led to the 1999 agreement (IT9907249F). This was followed by the trade unions’ divergent views in the 2003 collective bargaining round which led to the May 2003 industry-wide agreement, signed without the endorsement of Fiom-Cgil (IT0305204F). Consequently, the new unitary platform has restored relations among the main metalworking federations, which over the past 10 years have been characterised by tension and conflict.

The agreement should lead to discussions with the employer organisations on the renewal of the national sectoral agreement, the pay provisions of which will last for two years, from July 2007 to July 2009, while the normative provisions will last for four years, from 2007 to 2011.

Common bargaining objectives

The trade unions issued a statement highlighting the more important aspects of their proposals for an industry-wide agreement. The following list and subheadings outline the proposals in the same order as they appear in the trade unions’ statement.

  • With regard to information and consultation, the system of worker information and consultation must be extended to all companies with more than 50 employees, thus implementing Directive 2002/14/EC of 11 March 2002, transposed by the Italian government in 2007 (IT0612039I).
  • Information and consultation must also concern processes of outsourcing, relocation and investment abroad.
  • The following declaration must be included in the provisions of the agreement which regulate the employment relationship: ‘The normal employment relationship in the metalworking industry is an open-ended work contract.’
  • Every six months, companies must update the unitary workplace union structure (RSU) with information on the composition of employment relationships for the purpose of joint discussion on stabilising atypical contracts, such as a part-time or fixed-term contract and temporary agency work.
  • Temporary employment relationships, that is, fixed-term and temporary agency work, cannot exceed 15% of the total workforce employed at a particular production unit. However, deviations from this percentage are possible within specific company-level agreements.Additionally, the agreement provides that workers hired on fixed-term contracts and those hired from temporary work agencies on contracts of a six-month duration, whose contracts are renewed to the point where they have served 24 months within the company, must be given priority in selection procedures where the specifications for the job in question remain unchanged.
  • Workers hired on fixed-term contracts and those from temporary agencies on contracts of a 36-month duration, whose contracts extend past a 60-month time span, must be hired on a permanent basis.
  • Companies sub-contracting services will be responsible for the outsourced activity in relation to pay and normative aspects, as well as health and safety; these are the so-called ‘joint and several responsibilities’ of the sub-contractor.
  • Where the sub-contracting company is changed, the workers concerned will have the right to keep their jobs.
  • Only activities with a ‘pre-existing functional autonomy’ with respect to a company’s core business can be outsourced.

New job classification system

The current job classification system, which is based on seven different categories and eight pay levels, will be replaced by a new system. This is to be called the ‘blue-collar/white-collar classification’ within which five professional bands and two categories for each band will be distinguished, namely:

  • Band A – starter jobs, comprising mainly apprenticeships;
  • Band B – skilled jobs;
  • Band C – technical jobs;
  • Band D – professional jobs;
  • Band Q – managerial jobs, which do not include shop-floor workers and clerical staff.

Except for category A, the two categories within each band will be termed as ‘Basic’ and ‘Experienced’. Every band will be characterised by a general declaration which defines the specialised skills and transferable skills. This will be done in order to support professional development and career paths. At least once a year at company headquarters, job classifications will be re-examined.

A permanent performance-related pay increment, to be negotiated at company level, is to be introduced.

Working hours

Pay increases due for the multi-week work schedule, whereby the weekly work schedule varies at certain periods of the year – thus enabling a degree of working time flexibility – will rise from 10% to 20% for hours worked from Monday to Friday, and from 15% to 40% for hours worked on Saturdays.

Rights for migrant workers

Migrant workers must be given the right to attend courses of 250 paid hours for training and integration.

Pay increases

  • The increases in the wage-tariff minima or basic pay should amount to €117 for the current fifth level, while the increase will be €101 for the current third level. This demand corresponds to a 6.7% increase in the average wage.
  • The increase must be paid to all workers and no exceptions are to be made.
  • The increases will come into force on 1 July 2007 and will also apply to workers who are no longer in the workforce when the national level agreement is stipulated.
  • Additional bargaining is to introduce a ‘results bonus’ for all workers of companies which have not established annual productivity payments of €520 (previously €130).

The common bargaining platform decided on by the leaderships of Fiom-Cgil, Fim-Cisl and Uilm-Uil will now be submitted for approval by workers through a referendum to be held in all Italian metalworking establishments at the end of May 2007.

Reactions

Satisfaction has been expressed by the trade unions which drew up the common bargaining objectives. The General Secretary of Uilm, Antonio Regazzi, is quoted as saying: ‘It has been a long, difficult and complex process, but in the end we reached a positive agreement.’ According to the General Secretary of Fim, Giorgio Caprioli, the agreement is ‘important also in its normative part, because we propose to reform the job classification system, restrictions on the use of atypical contracts and changes to the system of working hours’. Finally, the General Secretary of Fiom, Gianni Rinaldini, has admitted that the increase requested is above the inflation rate, but he underlines that this is because ‘it is aimed at a partial recovery of the workers’ purchasing power after the negative trend in wages over the past years’.

By contrast, reaction from the sectoral employer organisation, the Federation of Metalworking Industries (Federazione Sindacale dell’Industria Metalmeccanica, Federmeccanica), has not been favourable. Its General Director, Roberto Santarelli, spoke out against the unitary platform: ‘It seems to me a very burdensome platform as regards the wage demands, which are twice those allowed, and those concerning the normative part of the agreement ... As always happens when reaching an agreement is difficult, the unions have constructed their platform by summarising their various demands ... The platform seems very distant from the needs of companies and from what the market requires of us: more flexibility, more productivity and lower costs.’

Commentary

The trade unions’ platform is certainly ambitious and demanding. It has, however, the merit of tackling wage issues as well as normative aspects of the world of work such as: employment regulations, including proposals to restrict the use of atypical contracts; the job classification system; work schedules; work organisation comprising the entire contracting-out value chain; the rights of migrant workers; and health and safety at the workplace.

Of particular interest are the provisions about the new job classifications system where the declared intent is to develop professional versatility and enhance transferable metalworking skills, and thus to guarantee recognition of professionalism and career advancement.

Livio Muratore, Ires Lombardia

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