New bargaining level introduced for North-East woodworking sector

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In June 1999, the social partners in the woodworking and furniture sector of Italy's north-eastern regions signed an agreement which aims at modifying the pay system through a lower tax levy, and at introducing flexible working hours. This new inter-regional collective bargaining level represents a further development of the Italian bargaining process.

A new "inter-regional" collective bargaining level is starting to gain importance in Italy, especially in those geographical areas that have very similar productive and social characteristics. This is the case of the country's economically important northern-eastern regions - Veneto, Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige, the so-called Triveneto- which are mainly characterised by a large number of often family-run small and medium-sized enterprises. In the important woodworking and furniture sector, the North-East accounts for 50% of domestic production and 50% of exports. In 1998, this sector saw a slight decrease in its growth rates and it is facing far-reaching international competition. Improving competitiveness and growth rates are thus the main common objectives of the sectoral social partners in the North-East, and these were the reasons behind an agreement signed on 10 June 1999 by the Federlegno-Arredo regional employers' federation and the Filca-Cisl, Fillea-Cgil and Feneal-Uil trade unions. The deal aims at modifying the pay system through a lower tax levy, and at introducing flexible working hours.

In their agreement, the social partners agree on the necessity to meet the market's challenges through "a flexible employment of personnel due also to the difficulties in recruiting specialised personnel". The partners have identified "a series of measures to support the woodworking sector, including the definition of an appropriate industrial policy and specific measures for the labour market". The measures discussed include interventions aimed at "reducing labour cost conditions for companies, lowering the tax and social contribution levy for workers", and at fostering the legalisation of the clandestine "underground" economy. The social partners also discussed exempting all performance-related pay from social security contributions.

The social partners decided to "go on with the discussion both to verify the results of the actions identified so far and to start up new initiatives which could be important for the development of the sector, starting from the establishment of the 'productive district'".

All the partners are satisfied with the agreement. Roberto Mingotto, representing the president of the Federlegno Triveneto employers' body said that he was convinced that the initiatives taken can satisfy all the actors involved: the trade unions, the employers and even the government, which would earn more through indirect taxes thanks to an increase in the sector's turnover. The trade unions believe that the fact that all the partners agreed on the development of the woodworking and furniture sector and on the crucial subjects of pay and labour flexibility is a very important step.

The next step is that the national trade union and employers' organisations will have to address the subjects discussed. They must launch discussions with the government to examine the development of the sector and to implement the proposals put forward by the social partners of Triveneto.

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