Social partners renew collective agreement in chemicals sector

In December 2009, an agreement was reached on renewal of the collective agreement for the chemicals and pharmaceutical sector between three trade union confederations and the two employer organisations. Besides an average pay increase of about €150, the agreement extends its validity and introduces new provisions regarding contractual welfare, working hours and the labour market.

On 18 December 2009, the social partners in the chemicals and pharmaceutical sector signed an accord on renewal of the sector’s collective agreement. The agreement was signed by the sectoral trade union organisations affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacato Lavoratori, Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil) – respectively, the Italian Chemicals, Energy and Manufacturing Workers’ Federation (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Chimica Energia Manifatture, Filcem-Cgil), the Energy, Chemicals and Allied Industries Federation (Federazione Energia Moda Chimica e Affini, Femca-Cisl) and the Italian Chemicals, Energy and Manufacturing Workers’ Union (Unione Italiana Lavoratori Chimica Energia Manifatturiero, Uilcem-Uil). On the employers’ side, it was signed by the National Federation of the Chemical Industry (Federazione Nazionale dell’Industria Chimica, Federchimica) and the National Pharmaceutical Industry Federation (Federazione Nazionale dell’Industria Farmaceutica, Farmindustria).

The new agreement, which was signed in Milan, covers the three-year period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2012. It concerns over 200,000 workers, employed in more than 1,700 companies, 90% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Details of agreement

The agreement was reached by all three of the most representative trade union federations in the sector, although the negotiations were based on three distinct bargaining platforms, with one for each sectoral organisation. Therefore, this latest agreement constitutes a further accord reached by all three national peak trade union confederations, following those reached in the food industry (IT0910029I) and the telecommunications sector (IT0911019I). The agreement is also significant as it restores unity among the three trade union confederations after a split caused in January 2009 by the Cgil’s refusal to sign an agreement on the reform of the collective bargaining system (IT0902059I).

Besides extending the validity of the agreement’s economic provisions from two to three years, as envisaged by the agreement reforming the collective bargaining system, the accord also introduces new provisions regarding both economic and legal aspects.

Pay increases

Regarding the economic part, the agreement provides for an average gross pay increase of €150 a month, €135 of which is to be distributed through minimum wage tariffs. The increase will be paid in three instalments: €38 from 1 January 2010; €48 from 1 January 2011; and €49 from 1 January 2012. Consequently, in the three-year period 2010–2012, workers’ pay in the chemicals sector will increase to a total amount of €3,626 a month.

Other significant increases are provided for workers on continuous shifts, whose increment is to be raised by €1. At the same time, middle managers’ increment will be increased from €172 to €190, while that of senior managers will rise from €90 to €100.

Regarding pay increases linked to second-level bargaining, the agreement lowers the size threshold of enterprises entitled to use the ‘participation bonus’, or ‘performance bonus’ as it was referred to in the previous agreement – from 100 to 70 employees. Moreover, it increases the replacement allowance by €2 euro a month (from €24 to €26) for companies without supplementary bargaining.

Legal aspects

The legal part of the new agreement introduces a number of innovations, as follows.

  • As regards so-called ‘contractual welfare’, the accord stipulates that enterprises must pay €10 (0.45%) more for social security coverage into the sector’s supplementary pension fund (Fonchim), which has more than 163,000 enrolments, or the equivalent of almost 90% of the employees. In the case of the sector’s supplementary healthcare fund (Faschim) with 116,000 enrolments, the payment made by the workers enrolled will be reduced by 50% (from €6 to €3). Moreover, the permanent concertation committee on the economic crisis (Welfarma), initially set up in the pharmaceuticals sector, will be extended experimentally to the entire sector covered by the agreement.
  • In relation to labour market matters, the agreement extends the probation period for young people in their first jobs from two to four months, or from three to six months depending on the employment level, while the employers must pledge to hire the same workers on permanent employment contracts.
  • The agreement increases weekly working hours in the sector from 37.45 to 38 hours, amounting to 1.5 working days more a year. This increase in working time has been approved by the trade unions in exchange for an extraordinary training plan (see next bullet point).
  • The agreement defines an extraordinary plan for continuous vocational training provision for workers on the wages guarantee fund and mobility lists (more than 50,000 workers in recent months). The plan foresees training schemes differentiated according to the specific needs of workers and companies – for instance, in relation to job-entry training, instruction, continuous training and joint training.
  • An important innovation is the abolition of automatic seniority increases – that is, the automatic pay increases which, until the previous agreement, were linked to length of service in a company.

Reactions of social partners

In general, the employers have reacted positively to the agreement’s abolition of the automatic seniority increments. Federchimica and Farmindustria commented favourably on the abolition ‘of these automatic contractual increases, by now obsolete’.

The trade unions have focused more on aspects concerning pay and vocational training. In a joint statement, the General Secretaries of Filcem-Cgil, Femca-Cisl and Uilcem-Uil – Alberto Morselli, Sergio Gigli and Romano Bellissima, respectively – confirmed that ‘the trade unions have responded to employers, who wanted an abrupt increase in working time, by convincing them to invest in a project for the continuing training of human resources’.

Regarding pay increases, Mr Morselli of Filcem-Cgil emphasised that they exceeded those envisaged by the indicator in the agreement on the reform of the bargaining system signed by Cisl and Uil in January 2009. Mr Morselli remarked that ‘the indicator established by the separate agreement has been overtaken by events, as demonstrated by the fact that Federchimica and Farmindustria, in compliance with the agreement, proposed an increase of €102.50, while we obtained an average overall increase of €150’. This is also the reason why Cgil – which did not sign the agreement on the collective bargaining system reform – is now signing various agreements in the sector.

Cristina Tajani, Fondazione Seveso

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