Renewal of collective agreement for insurance sector

After 18 months of talks and three breakdowns in negotiations, a deal has been reached on renewing the collective agreement for the insurance sector. Trade unions and employers have expressed their satisfaction with the agreement. The main points concern the contracting or ‘insourcing’ of call centre services, high pay increases and measures intended to expand company welfare services. A protocol on social responsibility is a new feature of the accord.

On 17 September 2007, a draft agreement was finally signed on renewal of the pay and standard parts of the insurance workers’ collective agreement for the period 2006–2009. Covering about 40,000 workers and 240 insurance companies, the agreement was signed after 18 months of talks and three breakdowns in negotiations. Its provisions are particularly innovative with regard to regulation of the labour market and the management of call centres.

On the employers’ side, the agreement was signed by the National Insurance Companies Association (Associazione Nazionale fra le Imprese Assicuratrici, Ania), and on the workers’ side by the following five trade unions: the Italian Insurance and Credit Workers’ Union (Federazione Italiana Sindacale Lavoratori Assicurazioni e Credito, Fisac), affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil); the Italian Banking and Insurance Workers’ Union (Federazione Italiana Bancari e Assicurativi, Fiba), affiliated to the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl); the Italian Credit and Insurance Workers’ Union (Unione Italiana dei Lavoratori del Credito, Esattorie e Assicurazioni, Uilca), affiliated to the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil); the National Insurance Managers’ Union (Sindacato Nazionale Funzionari Imprese Assicuratrici, Snfia); and the National Insurers’ Federation (Federazione Nazionale Assicuratori, Fna). The draft agreement has already been approved by the assembly of Ania, and trade union sources reported that broad consensus was being expressed at workforce assemblies.

Content of agreement

The pay part of the accord envisages significant increases in pay levels, which according to trade union estimates will amount to an annual average of 12.8%, whereas according to Ania they correspond to a 10.9% increase. Whatever the exact figure may be, these increments include measures to improve welfare services to employees: in fact, the sum paid by companies into the employee healthcare fund created by the previous agreement has more than doubled to 0.5% of the wage.

The most innovative aspects in the standard part of the agreement include the following provisions.

  • Range of application: The agreement is extended to cover claims adjustment services and call centres, including the contracting or ‘insourcing’ of outbound call activities, which concerns about 500 workers. Moreover, call centre workers will be entitled to take breaks to reduce stress at work and new measures are also introduced in respect of commissions.
  • Labour market: The agreement fixes the maximum duration of fixed-term employment contracts at 36 months and excludes the use of staff leasing arrangements and apprenticeship contracts. It also sets a 70% minimum for converting fixed-term employment contracts into regular open-ended employment contracts, thereby fulfilling the social partners’ commitment to stabilising the employment relationship of project workers (IT0707019I). The agreement permits a voluntary increase in working time from four to six hours for part-time workers.
  • Protocol on social responsibility: This protocol is a new feature of the agreement and obliges companies to adopt a more transparent code of conduct, with declared ethical rules, the consistent application of which must be verified with the trade unions.
  • Trade union relations: The agreement lays down new procedures for social dialogue in relation to the time schedule for prior information disclosure, the conduct of company-level negotiations and enhancement of continuing education schemes. Specific measures reinforce equal opportunities policies and make explicit reference to the European regulations on information and consultation, also recognising the importance of promoting the creation of European Works Councils in companies and in groups operating on a European scale.

Reactions of social partners

The trade unions have expressed considerable satisfaction with the content of the agreement reached. According to the General Secretary of Fisac-Cgil, Roberto Trau, ‘the agreement also represents a reference framework for competition among companies’ and has emphasised that the pay increases ‘take account of the sector’s extremely positive performance and cannot be off-loaded onto tariffs, considering that the cost of labour in the insurance sector amounts to less than 2%’.

The agreement has also been welcomed by the employers. However, the General Director of Ania, Gianpaolo Galli, underlined that ‘there has been no cutback in terms of corporate flexibility’.

Commentary

Although the agreement is strongly conditioned by the insurance sector’s very positive performance, the outcome is noteworthy because it seems to strikes a good balance between the flexibility needs of companies and the protection of workers’ rights. In particular, the measures on call centre management are based on other recent interventions intended to regulate the sector more closely (IT0609019I, IT0707019I), and they may be transferable to other sectors of the Italian economy currently engaged in the renewal of collective agreements.

Edoardo Della Torre, Ires Lombardia

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