New bilateral fund to support craft sector workers

Employers and unions in Italy’s craft sector have signed an agreement which will help protect workers when businesses are in trouble. The cross-industry deal was signed on 31 October 2013 by four employers’ associations and three union confederations. It will mean the creation of a new bilateral solidarity fund to provide income support benefits for all workers not covered by the Wages Guarantee Fund. The fund will operate initially on an experimental basis until the end of 2015.

Background

The craft sector in Italy has a consolidated system of bilateral bodies, regulated by cross-industry agreements at national and regional levels. The sector is also regulated by sectoral collective agreements (IT0812059I). This bilateral system has ensured income support benefits for craft workers suspended from work due to business crises.

In 2012, the so-called Fornero reform (IT1304039Q) saw the establishment of bilateral solidarity funds in sectors not covered by the Wages Guarantee Fund.

For sectors with a consolidated bilateral system, including crafts, the Fornero reform introduced a new regulation. This gave employers’ and workers’ associations the ability to jointly agree to adjust existing bilateral funds to provide income support benefits. These funds would help workers facing a reduction in their hours or suspension of their work, while preserving the continuity of their employment.

While this transformation of bilateral funds is implemented, the Fornero law provided that, in the 2013–2015 period, workers suspended due to companies’ or employment crises may benefit from the Social Insurance for Employment. This would be subject to a 20% integration by bilateral solidarity funds (IT1206019Q).

Other sectors signed similar agreements. Workers and employers with cooperative credit banks signed an agreement on 30 October 2013 to set up a bilateral solidarity fund. At a local level, the cooperatives of the autonomous province of Trento signed a cross-industry agreement on 29 October 2013, involving the provincial federation of the cooperatives and the unions’ local confederations.

Artisans’ bilateral income support fund

On 31 October 2013, a cross-industry agreement (in Italian, 730 KB PDF) was signed by four employee groups and three union confederations in the craft, or artisans’, sector to set up the new bilateral solidarity fund.

The employers groups were the General Italian Confederation of Artisans (Confartigianato imprese), the National Confederation of Artisans (CNA), the Autonomous Confederation of Artisans (Casartigiani), and the Confederation of Free Artisans’ Associations (CLAAI). Union signatories were the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Cgil), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Uil).

The fund will ensure income support benefits for all workers of craft trades not covered by the Wages Guarantee Fund. It will also cover all workers from companies regulated by any of the sectoral collective agreements signed by the parties, including those with up to 15 employees. The employees of the signatory organisations, and of their bodies and societies will also have access to the fund’s support schemes.

The new bilateral initiative will combine the fund’s allowance with the country’s Social Insurance for Employment (ASpI), according to the present experimental system valid in the 2013–2015 period.

Contributions

The contribution rate for companies is defined according to the legal minimum requirement, currently 0.2%. The parties will collect money through the existing bilateral system. The key role at national level will be taken by the National Craft Bilateral Body (EBNA), and by regional bilateral bodies at territorial level. Income benefits will be paid out at regional level through specific agreements signed by EBNA with each regional bilateral body.

The fund’s administration members will be required to meet certain standards, such as having been a director or manager of an employer or workers’ representative association, and having been a member of bilateral body’s board.

The new fund, named the Bilateral Solidarity Fund of the Craft Sector (FSBA), came into force on 31 December 2013. It will operate on an experimental basis until 31 December 2015. The parties have until 30 June 2015 to begin their assessment of the fund’s success.

Lisa Rustico, Università degli Studi di Milano

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