Italy: Developments in working life – Q1 2016

Consultation on the renewal of industrial relations regulations, a proposal for a Charter of Universal Labour Rights, new rules on self-employment and 'smart working', and negotiations for the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement in the metalworking sector are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Italy in the first quarter of 2016. 

Social partners discuss industrial relations system

Consultations on a new set of rules governing industrial relations began between employer organisations and the Italian General Confederation of Work (CGIL), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (CISL), and the Union of Italian Workers (UIL) after the unions presented a joint proposal on the matter. The unions’ proposal addresses three main issues currently receiving much political and social attention:

  • workers’ participation in corporate decision-making;
  • the consolidation of rules determining the representativeness of unions;
  • the extension of the coverage of collective bargaining to self-employed workers.

The proposal was welcomed by employers’ organisations representing professional services, craft businesses, and small companies, although some disagreements emerged concerning the role of decentralised bargaining. The General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria), the main employers’ organisation for the industry sector, refused to discuss the unions’ proposal, saying the proposal was not in line with its aim of linking wages with productivity at company level.

CGIL proposes Charter of Universal Labour Rights

On 18 January 2016, following consultations with its members, CGIL presented a significant initiative; the Charter of Universal Labour Rights. This is a proposal for legislation to ensure that all workers, irrespective of their employment status, are guaranteed a set of constitutional rights including freedom of expression, the right to a decent and dignified job, and the right to receive fair and commensurate remuneration. Among other goals, the proposal aims to strengthen protection from unfair dismissals; this protection has recently been weakened by the Jobs Act. CGIL now wants to launch a campaign to turn this document into a citizens’ initiative.

Better protection for self-employed workers

On 28 January 2016, the government issued a bill improving protection for non-entrepreneurial self-employed workers. It mainly concerns the protection of workers from unfair contract terms such as terms of payment longer than 60 days from the date of receipt of the invoice by the client, or from the payment request.

The bill also contains some minor changes in parental leave and maternity allowances. And it introduced the concept of ‘smart working’ into Italian legislation. Smart working (lavoro agile) is work that is performed independently of time and place: information and communications technology enables work to be carried out anywhere (not necessarily in an office) and at any time (outside of standard working hours). The legislation gives smart workers the right to receive the same pay as colleagues performing the same tasks, and makes it possible to set maximum thresholds for working hours and schedules for this type of employment relationship in collective agreements.

Strike call in metalworking sector

The trade unions of the metalworking sector – the Federation of White- and Blue-Collar Metalworkers (FIOM), the Italian Union of Metalworkers (UILM), and the Italian Federation of Metalworkers (FIM) – called for a four-hour general strike on 20 April 2016. The decision follows a halt in discussions after over four months of negotiations with the Association of Italian Metalworking Industry (Federmeccanica) on the renewal of the national collective agreement for the sector.

The main reason for the conflict is the proposal by Federmeccanica to narrow the role of national-level negotiations in setting wage increases. The employers advocates instead for more generous private welfare provisions and performance-related pay to be negotiated at company level. This strike is the first industrial action jointly called for and organised by FIM, FIOM, and UILM since the end of 2007. The unions believe the employers’ proposal would badly affect national collective bargaining and workers’ wages. Nevertheless, they are determined to continue with negotiations.


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