Civil service employment relationship privatised

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A "national agreement" between the Italian Government and trade unions, signed in March 1997, has established harmonised rules for almost all employment in the public and private sectors.

An agreement signed on 12 March by the Government and trade unions concluded the process of "privatising" the employment relationship for civil servants in Italy. In short, it aims to make the contractual treatment of almost all civil servants the same as that of workers in the private sector, through the extension of the contents of the tripartite central agreement on incomes policy of July 1993 and of the September 1996 pact for employment.

The employment relationship of Italian civil servants differs from that of private sector workers in a number of important ways. For civil servants: pay and conditions are set by law (though they result from negotiations with trade unions); there is no local-level collective bargaining, and trade union representation criteria are thus different from those in the private sector; dismissal is possibly only on strong disciplinary grounds, after a long legal procedure; and individual and collective contractual disputes are dealt with in the administrative tribunal (tribunale amministrativo). For private sector employees: pay and conditions are set by collective bargaining; there is decentralised, as well as sectoral, bargaining; the representation criteria for unions are set by a national agreement; dismissal can occur on a number of grounds (economic, disciplinary and so on); and disputes are dealt with in the local courts.

The new agreement makes the following provisions:

  1. the extension of the private sector employment relationship to further areas of public employment. Nearly 3 million public employees are no longer considered as civil servants, including employees of state ministries (such as post office workers and teachers) and employees of regional authorities (such as administrative and health service workers). Civil service status is retained only by 800,000 workers, including the police, armed forces, judges, university professors, ambassadors and provincial prefects. Public managers are no longer civil servants and, as a consequence, they can be dismissed following evidence of inefficiency;
  2. by June 1998, responsibility for dealing with contractual disputes for the employees concerned will be shifted from the Regional Administrative Court (Tar) to the "Pretore" for labour disputes. By 2000, disputes regarding pension issues will also come under the competence of civil magistrates. In anticipation of this, suitable solutions must be drawn up to reduce the number of cases, including the adoption of a form of arbitration;
  3. a decentralised level of bargaining is established, alongside the national contract. A proportion of pay - linked to the results obtained and checked at the end of every year by the administration concerned - will have to be negotiated at this level. Collective bargaining procedures have to be updated in time for the next contract renewals;
  4. employment mobility will be negotiated with trade unions at local level, with incentives provided. In an effort to promote work flexibility, part-time work will be extended, work-training contracts will be introduced and forms of telework will be experimented with; and
  5. one per cent of overall personnel expenses will be earmarked for vocational training, together with the use of EU resources. A special plan for training on computing and work safety issues will also be set up.

According to reports in the newspaper, La Stampa, on 13 March, all of the leading figures in the agreement are satisfied. Franco Bassanini, the public services minister, is reported to have stated that the agreement allows for "reinvestment in the improvement of the public administration", while the secretary of the CISL trade union confederation, Sergio D'Antoni, considers that the important fact is the amount of attention paid to the human factor, with the result that "training will become crucial". The general secretary of CGIL (the largest union confederation), Sergio Cofferati, is reported to have been delighted with the recognition of a dual level of bargaining, which constitutes a "step forward in the direction of completing the full privatisation of the employment relationship for the civil service, with the same rules, laws and duties as the private sector".

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