Trade union unity and social dialogue on Cisl's agenda

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Trade union unity and greater social dialogue were the key themes at the 13th national congress of the Cisl union confederation, held in Rome on May 1997.

The 13th national Congress of the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati dei Lavoratori, Cisl) - one of Italy's three main union confederations - took place in Rome on 24 May. A total of 1,254 delegates took part in the congress, representing 3.8 million members in the industrial, commercial, agricultural, services and public sectors. The congress elected half of the confederation's general council, which subsequently (on 19 June) confirmed that Sergio D'Antoni would remain as general secretary, and re-elected the other secretariat officials, including the vice-secretary, Raffaele Morese.

Mr D'Antoni gave the introductory speech, in which - taking up the themes of preliminary discussions at Cisl's territorial, regional and sectoral congresses (of which there are 113, 21 and 16 respectively) - he stressed the necessity to attain the objective of unity with the other two main confederations, Cgil and Uil. This should happen as quickly as possible, with a"constituent body for unity" to be set up right away, and the statute of the new united trade union to be drawn up by next year. The new trade union - according to Mr D'Antoni - should be responsible for opening debate with political parties and Parliament in order to draw up a law setting out criteria and rules for trade union and worker representation in the workplace. Cisl does not want these rules and criteria to be decided by a legislative initiative backed by parties in Parliament, outside the influence of trade unions.

The united trade union organisation sought by Cisl would be very open to social dialogue ("concertation") and participation of all kinds - for example, Cisl is in favour of employee share ownership, managed in a collective fashion. Mr D'Antoni stated the need for "true" dialogue and participation and not only simple and occasional consultation. He went on to criticise the centre-left Government led by Romano Prodi for not considering dialogue as the "pillar of the relationship with the social actors". Nevertheless, Mr D'Antoni added, Cisl judges any government on the grounds of its actual behaviour, and today this means above all the proposed welfare and social security reform (IT9703303F).

Intervening in the congress debate, the general secretaries of Cgil and Uil, Sergio Cofferati and Pietro Larizza, expressed their commitment to achieving trade union unity. However, there are differences in the opinions of the three confederations as to how the new trade union will take shape, for example on the problem of the rights of its members and the relationship with other workers. Further clarifications will be required, starting with practical questions on welfare reform, the renewal of the 1993 incomes policy agreement and agreeing a common action plan for employment.

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