Intersectoral agreement on representativeness heals rift

On 28 June 2011 an intersectoral agreement was signed by Italy’s major union confederations Cgil, Cisl and Uil and employers’ federation Confindustria. It introduces new rules on the certification of representativeness for participation in industry-wide bargaining at national level, and on the validity of company deals. It also heals the rift created between the social partners in 2009 when Cgil refused to sign an agreement on the reform of the bargaining structure.


The conclusion of an intersectoral agreement on 28 June 2011 marks a significant development in Italian industrial relations, following a split among trade union confederations after the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Cgil) had refused to sign the January 2009 Framework Agreement on the reform of the bargaining structure (IT0902059I).

The June agreement, however, was signed by the employers’ Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria) and by all three major union confederations, the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Cisl), the Union of Italian Workers (Uil) and Cgil.

Although the majority of industry-wide collective agreement renewals have been signed by all organisations affiliated to the three major confederations, tensions have remained among the trade unions. The metalworking sector has, however, been the main exception to this trend (IT1007019I).

One example of the enduring differences between Cgil on one side, and Cisl and Uil on the other, can be seen in developments at Fiat in the recent Pomigliano and Mirafiori agreements (IT1102019I, IT1007029I), which paved the way for Fiat to leave Confindustria’s representation system.

Cgil’s metalworkers’ federation Fiom is at the centre of the dispute on the new establishment-level agreements, but Cgil was also involved in the debate. Indeed, the problems raised by the validity and effectiveness of agreements that are not signed by all the major trade union organisations – as in the case of Fiat – are at the centre of the new intersectoral agreement.

New intersectoral agreement

The new intersectoral agreement of 28 June 2011 represents the implementation of one of the main provisions of the January 2009 Framework Agreement, clause 17 of which envisaged the introduction of rules on representativeness.

However, it also provides a set of rules that can be used to solve problems raised by possible divergences over the content of company-level bargaining, and particularly to guarantee the validity and effectiveness of decentralised bargaining which may introduce derogations to industry-wide agreements.

The so-called ‘opening’ or ‘hardship’ clauses were another controversial element of the Framework Agreement (clause 16). In both cases, the 28 June 2011 accord apparently helps to close the split caused by the disagreements of January 2009.

Main points of the new agreement

Representativeness at national level (article 1)

Certification of trade union representativeness for national industry-wide bargaining is based on two elements:

  • the number of workers whose membership fees are up-to-date, as communicated by firms to the National Institute for Social Insurance (Inps);
  • the votes cast in periodical elections for RSU s, the Unitary Workplace Trade Union Structures, which must be held every three years.

Both sets of data will be collected and kept by the National Council for Economic Affairs and Labour (Cnel). Trade union organisations with a representativeness of at least 5% (calculated as the average between the percentage of membership and votes) will take part in national negotiations at sectoral level.

Validity of company-level agreements (articles 4–6).

Company level agreements on economic and normative elements are effective for all workers and bind all associations that are affiliated to the signatory confederations, if they are approved by the majority of the RSU representatives elected according to interconfederal rules.

In companies where company-level trade union structures (RSA s) are present instead of RSUs, the agreement is valid and effective if it is approved by the RSAs that receive the majority of workers’ check-offs for membership dues, as communicated to the company management the year before the conclusion of the agreement.

In this latter case, a worker referendum can be held to approve the agreement if, within 10 days of the conclusion of a deal, it is requested by at least 30% of company workers or by at least one organisation affiliated to one of the confederations that signed the 28 June 2011 intersectoral agreement.

Strike-free clauses (article 6)

Strike-free clauses included in company-level agreements to guarantee the effectiveness of contractual provisions only bind the trade union organisations that are affiliated to the signatory confederations present at company-level. They do not cover individual workers.

Opening clauses (article 7)

Company-level agreements can introduce temporary and experimental modifications to rules set by industry-wide agreements, in accordance with and within the limits established by the same industry-wide accords. If the sectoral provisions on opening clauses have not yet been defined, company-level deals can modify the industry-wide agreement provisions on work performance, working hours and work organisation.

The signature of the agreement

Confindustria, Cgil, Cisl and Uil finally undersigned the agreement on 21 September 2011. On that occasion a joint declaration was added to underline that ‘the topics of industrial relations and collective bargaining are autonomously determined by the bargaining parties. As a consequence, Confindustria, Cgil, Cisl and Uil commit themselves to abide with the Intersectoral Agreement of 28 June, by fully implementing its provisions and ensuring that all their respective structures are applied at all levels’.

Such an addendum was interpreted by some observers as a way to stress the autonomy of industrial relations in the light of the then recently approved legislative provision on derogations to law and industry-wide collective bargaining as included in art. 8 of decree law 138/2011 (IT1110019I).

Roberto Pedersini, Università degli Studi di Milano

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