New industrial relations protocol for gas sector group

A group of companies in Italy’s gas sector, Snam, has signed two important agreements with unions. The first identifies a new model for collective bargaining, participation and the involvement of the unions by setting up an industrial relations committee. The second is a framework agreement for employment. The agreements, concluded on 17 October 2013, are part of the widespread restructuring of the group that has been supported by the Ministry of Economic Development.

Background

During the last five years, the Snam group of companies has been restructuring with the support of the Ministry of Economic Development. The goal was to find structural synergies, achieve efficiency gains in the gas supply chain, and improve work organisation and human resources, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

As part of this process, a number of protocols have been signed since 2009 by the companies in the group, which include Italgas, Snam Rete Gas and Stogit, to safeguard employment levels and workers’ competences.

Eni, the former majority shareholder in the group, left in October 2012. This was part of a framework of measures intended to improve competition in Italy’s energy infrastructure sector and establish a stable core ownership. The government decided that a stake of at least 25.1% in the group had to be transferred to a joint stock company under public control (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti), collecting funding through postal savings and sustaining a number of initiatives to support the national economic system.

The remaining stake would be sold in transparent and non-discriminatory transactions on the stock exchange or to institutional investors. This comprehensive change in the ownership structure led to the overall reorganisation of the group.

In October 2013, and within the scope of this process, the group and unions signed two protocols, one on industrial relations and one on employment, with the objective of unifying the dual collective bargaining system that the Snam group of companies currently has in place. At the moment its various subsidiaries have to observe two national sectoral collective agreements, one for water and gas activities, and the other for energy and oil activities.

Industrial relations protocol

On 17 October 2013, the Snam group (Società Snam, Snam Rete Gas, Italgas, Stogit, Napoletanagas and GNL Italia) and the unions Filctem-Cgil, Femca-Cisl and Uiltec-Uil, met to sign a Protocol for a new model of industrial relations (in Italian, 1 MB PDF) for the Snam group.

The protocol, which will last for three years, includes information on the industrial plan for 2013–2016. It includes investment of €6.2 billion to diversify energy sources coherently within national and European energy strategies, to increase flexibility in the supply and distribution system, and to improve connections with the European energy networks. To achieve this, Snam will hire 100 new employees by 31 December 2016.

Participatory bodies and information disclosure

The protocol defines a new participatory system of industrial relations and establishes bilateral bodies to strengthen collective bargaining, information disclosure procedures and union involvement. Participatory industrial relations should actively oversee continuing restructuring, and also bring the efficiency improvements needed because of increased competition caused by globalisation and market liberalisation.

The parties have agreed to establish an industrial relations committee. Its members will be an equal number of representatives from Snam and the signatory unions, and three workers’ representatives (one each appointed by the three signatory unions). The committee is expected to meet once a year to discuss, among other things, the group’s industrial and investment plans, employment levels, developments in the legal and regulatory framework, trends in national and European markets, health and safety issues, and topics relating to equal opportunities and company welfare.

The parties have also agreed to set up a commission to study the participatory governance model, and to set up a committee for health, safety and the environment. The protocol includes a commitment by Snam and the unions to agree on the group’s transnational strategies, with the target of setting up a European Works Council by the first semester of 2014. The protocol also establishes a commitment to setting up a joint bilateral committee to deal with subcontracting issues.

Worker information and training is also dealt with by the protocol. For information disclosure, the parties agree to meet yearly so that unions can be informed about issues such as:

  • training and environmental policies;
  • financial conditions and investment plans;
  • employment levels;
  • developments in technological equipment;
  • organisational processes.

Training is considered a key investment to improve the group’s performance and advance its business. The parties have therefore made a commitment to train workers, update their basic, transversal and occupational competences, and to develop professional skills and e-skills which are increasingly required by changes in work organisation. Training methods will include the use of e-learning tools.

Collective bargaining

The protocol identifies the specific competences of each bargaining level.

At group/company level, collective bargaining will address issues such as participation bonuses, restructuring procedures, business transfers, guidelines for the harmonisation of economic and regulatory aspects of compensation within the group, and company welfare.

At the local level, unitary workplace union structures (RSUs) will negotiate over issues including work organisation, articulation of working time, shifts, availability, collective closures, equal opportunities, employment and professional development at local level and training plans.

Representation

The protocol envisages a reorganisation of the unitary workplace union structures with a new territorial configuration.

It establishes the creation of a single unitary workplace union structure (RSU) for each plant, representing all workers, irrespective of their formal employer within the Snam group of companies. The new RSUs will be elected by June 2014 and each one will have an executive committee of at least nine members that will be in charge of the coordination of activities and negotiation with management.

For negotiations and talks at national level that involve local RSU representatives, the protocol provides for the creation of a single bargaining committee that will be responsible for group-level bargaining.

A bargaining committee for each company in the group will also be established to negotiate on company-specific issues.

Employment issues

The parties also signed an Agreement on employment (in Italian, 252 KB PDF), which identifies the tools to achieve quantitative and qualitative improvements in human resources, to meet the technical and organisational needs of the Snam group.

A three-year vocational training programme will be organised to develop workers’ competences. The agreement also puts voluntary resignation incentives in place, including making pensions available for workers who choose to take redundancy. The parties have also agreed help workers relocate if their current job is no longer viable and they are willing to move to jobs with other companies within the group. These mobility measures must be accompanied by full consultation between all parties concerned.

The agreement also puts professional guidance and retraining in place as a tool to strengthen employability.

The agreement provides for the loss of 300 jobs which Snam hopes to achieve through voluntary resignations and early retirement incentives.

To acquire new skills and balance turnover, Snam will hire 150 new workers over three years (in addition to the 100 people that will be hired by the end of 2016). From January 2014, the group will also engage new temporary agency workers and recruit workers on fixed-term contracts.

An assessment and monitoring committee has been set up to oversee implementation of the employment agreement. The committee must have its first meeting by 31 March 2014 and will then meet every four months.

Reactions

Filctem-Cgil, Femca-Cisl and Uiltec-Uil issued a very positive joint communiqué about the conclusion of the agreements. The unions agree that the measures are expected to create a new participatory industrial relations model for the Snam group. They also stress the importance of the agreement for employment, as it guarantees the necessary turnover for renewal of the labour force and for a more balanced organisational model and skills mix.

Lisa Rustico, Università degli Studi di Milano

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Lisa kommentaar