Trade unions mobilise for the enforcement of the pact for employment

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A demonstration took place in Rome on 22 March backed by the three biggest trade union confederations, CGIL, CISL, and UIL, in support of the enforcement of the "trilateral" agreement on employment signed in September 1996.

A large demonstration for employment involving 400,000 workers took place on 22 March in the Italian capital, backed by the three most important Italian trade union confederations - CGIL, CISL and UIL. The unions took advantage of this occasion to announce their willingness to adopt tougher protest measures if the "pact for employment" is not rapidly implemented in concrete terms.

The union confederations, the employers' organisations and the Government signed the "pact for employment", in September 1996 (Record IT9702201F), a development seen as a further stage in the policy of "concertation" started by the central tripartite agreement signed on 23 July 1993. The implementation of the new pact requires legislative intervention, both for the start-up of investment (in infrastructure, transport, telecommunications, energy etc) and to make possible specific initiatives for the development and "reindustrialisation" of depressed areas in Southern Italy (through local collective agreements in pay and "area pacts").

Other legislative interventions are necessary to allow: an effective fight against "undeclared" employment (through means such as pay agreements at company level aimed at bringing the illegally low pay rates of undeclared workers up to the standard laid down in national agreements, over a set period of time); the upgrading of apprenticeships and work-training contracts, so as to ensure their effective implementation; the regulation of temporary work; the organisation of works projects in the public interest, such as environmental projects; and access for the regions to European Union funds. Together, these interventions were meant to mark the start of a far-reaching reform of labour market structure.

In the trade unions' and employers' opinion, there has not been the necessary political commitment by the Government and Parliament in the months following the agreement. The excessive slowness in confronting the employment problem, which is getting more and more dramatic in the southern regions, has also been noted by the President of the Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who in a meeting with the Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, and the ministers most directly involved in the issue, pressed for more effective action, even by government decree.

The Government has decided to issue a decree to restart investments in infrastructure and to allocate ITL 1,000 billion for several urgent interventions for works of public interest, involving the employment of young people. At their general council meeting, held on 8 March in Calabria, CGIL, CISL and UIL acknowledged the government proposals, though they confirmed the continuance of the mobilisation for employment.

The relationship between the Government and employers is in many senses going through a difficult period. Representatives of Confindustria (General Confederation of Italian Industry) have criticised the government proposals, declaring on various occasions that employment is not created by decree, but through a real economic development policy, promoting investments, accelerating the privatisation process and increasing labour flexibility.

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