Collective agreement signed for chemicals industry
A new national collective agreement for the Italian chemicals sector was signed in February 2002. The deal provides for an annual working time reduction of eight hours, an average monthly wage increase of EUR 88 over 2002-3 and the establishment of a supplementary health insurance fund, as well as containing new provisions on training and health, safety and the environment. The employers' associations and trade unions were highly satisfied with the terms of the agreement and the collaborative atmosphere which resulted in the settlement being reached quickly.
After four months of negotiations, and without any strike action, a new national collective agreement for the chemicals industry was concluded on 12 February 2002. The deal was signed by the sector's employers' associations, Federchimica and Farmindustria, and the Unitary Federation of Chemicals Workers (Federazione Unitaria Lavoratori Chimici, Fulc), which brings together the sectoral trade unions affiliated to the three main trade union confederations (Filcea-Cgil, Femca-Cisl and Uilcem-Uil). The economic/pay part of the agreement will run until the end of 2003 and the 'normative' part dealing with other issues will run until 2005.
The principal features of the agreement include:
- an average monthly pay increase of EUR 88 in three instalments - EUR 28 in March 2002, EUR 30 in September 2002 and EUR 30 in June 2003. Workers in those subsectors undergoing difficulties will receive their first increase in either December 2002 (the pottery and abrasives sectors) or September 2003 (the fibres sector);
- a one-off lump-sum payment of EUR 62 to compensate employees for the period between the expiry of the previous agreement (31 December 2001) and the conclusion of the new one;
- the creation of a voluntary supplementary health insurance fund, into which employees pay EUR 155 per year and employers EUR 181;
- a reduction in working time of eight hours per year for shift workers. Other workers will see their annual hours cut in the form of one day's holiday on 2 June (the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Italy);
- the parties will meet before the end of December 2002 in order to finalise how to apply the new legislation (legislative decree 368/2001) concerning fixed-term contracts (IT0105282F) to the chemicals sector; and
- a statement of the willingness of the social partners to accept temporary flexibility measures in certain company situations. Any temporary solutions which are not laid down in the national agreement must not, however, affect 'pay and inalienable individual rights'.
The agreement also contains detailed provisions on certain aspects of vocational training and the protection of workers' health and the environment.
The agreement sets up a bipartite national body for vocational training in the chemicals sector, which will have an executive role and draw up proposals concerning vocational training. The partners will consider further the relationship of this new body to the recently established national intersectoral fund for vocational training (IT0202103F). The new agreement also provides that workers who wish to participate in vocational training will have to sign a 'training pact' (patto formativo). This pact is an individual agreement whereby the company will allow the worker to participate in continuing vocational training and the workers will agree to modify their working hours, rest times or other contractual aspects in order to take parts in training initiatives. However, even without signing a pact, workers will have the possibility of participating in special training courses run at local level. Finally, workers with at least five years' service with their employer will be allowed to take time off (unpaid) in order to participate in training initiatives.
The chemicals sector is greatly affected by environmental and health and safety problems, and the agreement specifies a number of initiatives in this area. The employers have agreed to bring the running of their businesses into line with international health and safety standards, such as ISO 14000, the EU's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and the chemicals industry's Responsible Care scheme.
The trade unions, through and unitary workplace union structure s (rappresentanze sindicali unitarie, Rsus) and company environmental committees will have an active role in health and environmental issues, both in the planning phase and in the diffusion of a better safety culture among the workforce. Rsus and environmental committees will participate in the planning of programmes to improve the environment. Furthermore, each year, together with management representatives, they will establish a programme specifying how workers will be involved in matters related to safety and environmental protection. A health and safety representative will be elected in every Rsu, who, together with the members of the environmental committee, will participate in specific training courses.
Federchimica has set up a technical service which will supply each company's environmental committee, through the internet, with up-to-date information regarding exposure times to chemical, biological and physical risks, as stated in national and EU regulations, or, if lacking, as set out in tables produced by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.
The agreement's regulations regarding health, safety and the environment will also be applied to employees of contractor companies which work on the premises of chemicals enterprises. These contractor companies will have to be certified in all aspects regarding health, safety and the environment.
All the signatories of the agreement were very satisfied. Giorgio Squinzi, the president of Federchimica, underlined 'the positive climate of industrial relations developed through the years', which resulted in 2002 in differentiated pay increases for subsectors (such as fibres and pottery) which are undergoing economic difficulties. The unions were also satisfied with the positive climate of industrial relations in the chemicals sector. Renzo Bellini, the general secretary of Femca-Cisl, underlined that agreements reached in the sector have traditionally introduced innovative provisions. Eduardo Guarino of Filcea-Cgil stated that the solutions agreed fulfil the needs and wishes of the workers, and Romano Bellissima, the general secretary of Uilcem-Uil, considered the agreement to be 'an excellent result considering the situation in the sector and the general crisis of industrial relations in Italy' (IT0201277F).