New bargaining system agreed for craftworkers

An agreement was reached on 21 November 2008 aiming to modify the collective bargaining system in the artisan or craftwork industry in Italy. The agreement strengthens regional bargaining and intensifies the role of the bilateral bodies. National collective agreements will be reduced from 17 to nine in number. Two of the main trade unions have already signed the agreement, while the third was expected to sign it in the near future.

On 21 November 2008, the artisan employer organisations and the three main trade unions in Italy defined the ‘Guidelines for the reform of the bargaining system, of industrial relations and of bilateralism in the artisan industry’. The four employer organisations included: the General Italian Confederation of Artisans (Confederazione Generale Italiana dell’Artigianato, Confartigianato), the National Confederation of Artisans and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Confederazione nazionale dell’Artigianato e della Piccola e Media Impresa, CNA), the Independent Confederation of Artisan Organisations (Confederazione Autonoma Sindacati Artigiani, Casartigiani) and the Confederation of Free Italian Artisan Associations (Confederazione delle Libere Associazioni Artigiane Italiane, Claai). The three trade unions involved are: the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), the Italian Confederation of Wokers’ Union (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil).

The agreement, which had been discussed since the spring of 2008, addresses two fundamental industrial relations issues in the industry: the collective bargaining system and bilateralism. It will affect skilled manual workers, known as craftspersons or artisans.

All of the employer organisations and two of the trade unions immediately signed the agreement. The Cgil delegation also agreed with the content of the agreement. However, it decided to leave the decision of whether to sign or not to its management body.

Details of new system

The agreement foresees two bargaining levels for artisans: national and regional. Another interconfederal level is envisaged, which will regulate the representation system of workers, the collective bargaining system and the system of recourse for the entire artisan industry.

National level

The national collective agreement for artisans will deal with matters specific to the industry and will exclusively regulate the bargaining, trade union rights, professional profiles, national salary levels, general guidelines concerning working conditions and other future matters that legislation may delegate to collective bargaining.

As a further reform, the duration of sectoral national collective agreements will change from four to three years and the current 17 agreements will be reduced to nine, encompassing the following sectors of economic activity: metalworking (IT0802039I), textiles and clothing (IT0809039I), chemicals (IT0707029I), food, wood and stonecutting, communications, services (IT0809029I), construction and road haulage (IT0807029I).

The agreement anticipates interventions to protect salaries from inflation. When the national collective agreements are renewed, the pay increases will be determined by forecasting the inflation rate for the period of time when the agreement will be in force. This prediction will be made by a third entity, which will be chosen by the bargaining parties. Should any difference arise between forecast inflation and real inflation, this will be adjusted before the agreement expires following a joint check by the signatories.

Regional level

Regional bargaining will take place at interconfederal level and at industry level. The regional interconfederal level must apply the national confederal agreements to the specific situation of each region and regulate the regional bargaining for craftworkers in the different sectors of economic activity.

The industry level of bargaining will have the role of distributing productivity benefits and bonuses according to parameters jointly established by the actors at interconfederal level. In terms of scheduling, the regional agreement at industry level, which lasts three years, will enter into effect halfway through the duration of the national collective agreement in force.

Bilateral system

The signatories of the artisan agreement have recognised that the bilateral bodies must play a fundamental role in the development of welfare institutions. These bodies – similarly to the situation for bargaining – will be organised at national and regional levels; they will be active in operational terms, allocating to workers and companies what has been established in the agreements.

The new agreement re-establishes the role of the national bilateral body in great detail, adding to the functions already envisaged the promotion of bilateral bodies in regions where they are lacking. In these cases, the national bilateral body will cover the role at local level until a local bilateral body has been set up.

More specifically, the signatories have defined the role of the system of bilateral bodies as outlined below.

  • Social ‘shock absorbers’ (ammortizzatori sociali) (IT9802319F, IT0205204F) for the artisan industry will be strengthened in order to improve income support for workers during involuntary periods of unemployment. The signatories of the agreement intend to guarantee all workers an unemployment allowance which will be higher than the current level and they intend to widen cover to include workers who are less eligible – that is, those on fixed-term employment contracts or apprenticeships, for example.
  • A national system will be set up to monitor regional data regarding health and safety in the workplace (IT0804039I, IT0702069I).
  • A national fund will be established to finance supplementary health insurance, sustained by company contributions. By the end of 2008, a bilateral commission was expected to establish the statute and regulations of the fund.
  • The signatories have decided that entrepreneurs will also be able to participate in continuing vocational training courses. This aspect will be discussed further by the signatories in order to identify the most appropriate instruments.
  • The system of bilateral bodies will be financed by an amount that companies will pay to the National Institute of Social Insurance (Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale, Inps), in addition to the obligatory contributions.

Trade union reactions

Confederal Secretary of Cgil, Susanna Camusso, considers the agreement to be positive. Nevertheless, she adds that ‘the characteristics of the artisan industry and the difficulties in establishing widespread representativeness must, however, be evaluated’, clarifying the reason why Cgil had not yet signed the agreement.

The confederal secretaries of Cisl and Uil, Giorgio Santini and Paolo Pirani, expressed their disappointment at Cgil not having jointly signed the agreement ‘the content of which corresponds to the sense of cooperation which characterised the negotiations’.

Commentary

The reform of the collective bargaining system is proceeding in a satisfactory manner, increasing the possibility for the trade unions to better protect the salaries and working conditions of workers (IT0806049I). The fact that Cgil did not sign the agreement is due to the breakdown in relations with the other organisations and to its opposition to the centre-right government, led by Silvio Berlusconi.

Vilma Rinolfi and Domenico Paparella, Cesos

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