Public sector reforms agreed

On 11 May 2012, the Italian government, regions, local government and unions reached an agreement on public sector reform covering industrial relations, training and labour regulations. The moves, the second major overhaul of the public service in four years, will involve cuts of more than €4 billion and a major overhaul of contracts, with a close look at how bonuses are awarded. The unions are fully behind the changes, which promise a new industrial relations strategy.


In recent years, the public administration has been radically reorganised and spending drastically reduced. Since 2008 the civil service reform plan introduced by the then Civil Service Minister, Renato Brunetta, has covered pay (including premiums and incentives based on merit and performance), career progression, personnel dismissals, greater disciplinary powers for managers and the collective bargaining system (IT0807039I, IT0810019I, IT1104039I).

A spending review to rationalise and contain public administration costs, announced by the Monti government after it took office in November 2011, includes further cuts of €4.2 billion by the end of 2012. This figure corresponds to 9% of spending considered reviewable by the Monti government in the short term.

Under an agreement (in Italian, 131Kb PDF) signed on 11 May 2012 by the unions, government, regions, local municipalities and provinces, spending cuts in the public sector will be accompanied by modernisation of the public administration through the rationalisation and improvement of procedures.

About the agreement

The agreement, which will provide the basis for legislation, includes:

  • a new industrial relations strategy;
  • the rationalisation and simplification of productivity premiums;
  • new regulations for the public sector labour market;
  • a system of vocational training;
  • reviewing the role of managers.

New model of industrial relations

The government, regions, local bodies and unions have agreed on the need for new strategies for industrial relations, in particular:

  • the recognition of collective bargaining for working conditions and pay;
  • the involvement of unions in the rationalisation of the public sector (including the spending review cuts);
  • the strengthening of powers of the regions and local bodies in collective bargaining;
  • the involvement of the unions in all phases of collective mobility (moving staff between jobs), and the agreement stresses the need to link mobility with requalification and professional training programmes in order to guarantee quality and usefulness of work.

System of evaluation

Salaries of public sector employees are composed of a fixed sum defined by the sectoral national collective agreement, plus a variable sum linked to criteria defined in the National Collective Agreements of each organisational unit (usually referred to as supplementary salary). The Brunetta decree (Decree n.150/2009, in Italian) established rigid criteria linked to organisational and individual performance in order to calculate this variable element (IT1102049I). In the agreement of 11 May 2012, the government and the social partners have recognised the need to rationalise and simplify this system of measurement, evaluation and premiums. The hope is that better overall evaluation will give organisational performance a more significant role against individual performance. The agreement aims to evaluate the application of these criteria in relation to the characteristics of the various sectors.

Labour market

The agreement confirms the use of open-ended contracts as the standard form of employment, with public job selections as the main means of finding candidates. The signatories agreed to a number of measures following the recent reforms of the labour market in the private sector and in an attempt to resolve the problem of workers with ‘non-standard employment contracts’ in the public sector – around 180,000 in education and 140,000 across the rest of the public sector (see Conto annuale 2008-2009-2010, in Italian, 712kb PDF). They agreed to:

  • reorganise and rationalise the various types of flexible work in the public sector, including specific jobs in sectors such as health, research and education;
  • stop the improper use of flexible contracts, and regulate managerial responsibility and the sanctions to be applied when such contracts are given;
  • make use of the experience gained in flexible employment contracts for public job selections;
  • evaluate intervention for personnel with non-standard contracts;
  • reorganise procedures regarding redundancies for disciplinary reasons while providing guarantees for workers who are the victims of unlawful dismissals.

Vocational training

The agreement recognised the need for vocational training to improve the quality of the service offered by the public sector. The partners have underlined the need to reorganise public sector vocational training schools to improve the continuous training of public employees and make the most of resources.

Senior management

The role and responsibilities of senior managers will be reinforced, while professional and inter-departmental mobility will be favoured. The system of incentives for managers will be linked to the relationship between resources (material and human) and the effects on services.

Reactions of the social partners

The Minister of Public Administration, Patroni Griffi, has said that he is satisfied with the agreement because it will align the public sector with the recent regulation of work in the private sector and make the Brunetta decree easier to apply.

The three principal Italian trade unions are all satisfied with the agreement. The Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) says that the agreement resolves some critical problems contained in the Brunetta reforms, while at the same time aiming to resolve the large amount of non-standard workers in the public sector. The Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (CISL) says the agreement will link collective bargaining elements such as productivity, efficiency, clarity of public actions, vocational training and the system of premiums to the reforms’ aims and objectives. The Italian Labour Union (UIL) says the agreement is an important step forward which is based on the principal of merit.

Sofia Sanz, Cesos

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