Metalworking and food industry agreements signed
June 1999 saw the conclusion of new national agreements for Italy's key metalworking and food industries. The most innovative aspects of the deals concern pay increases, the role of Rsu representative bodies in decentralised bargaining, and the reduction and management of working time.
On 8 June 1999, after eight months of talks (IT9809234F), several interruptions of the negotiations, strikes and a national demonstration in Rome, a new collective agreement was signed for the metalworking sector, where the previous agreement had expired on December 1998 (IT9902243F). The metalworking sector is one of Italy's largest, employing about 1.7 million blue- and white-collar workers. The agreement was signed following mediation involving the social partners - the Fiom-Cgil, Fim-Cisl and Uilm-Uil trade union federations and Federmeccanica and Confindustria for the employers - and the Minister of Labour, Antonio Bassolino. The agreement will be formalised subject to workers' approval in a referendum to be held during late June/early July. The main innovations of the agreement concern working time, pay and decentralised industrial relations.
On working time, the agreement's key provisions are as follows:
- flexibility. Those companies whose production is seasonal may plan working time on a multi-week basis. In such cases, the normal working week can be extended from 40 to 48 hours - with a maximum of 64 hours above normal working time during the reference period;
- reduction. Working time is cut by eight hours per year for those workers who have inconvenient shifts (at night and during holidays) starting from 2002;
- shiftwork. Starting from 1 January 2001, shiftworkers workers will be able to transform 16 out of the 20 hours of rest breaks to which they were already entitled into time off; and
- overtime. The number of hours of overtime work allowed per worker each year are increased from 150 to 200 for large companies and from 200 to 250 for small companies. The first 32 hours of overtime work in large companies, and the first 80 worked in small companies, will be paid normally. The following hours will not be paid for immediately but will be "placed" in an "hours account". The worker will be able to decide whether to take a compensatory rest for the overtime hours worked or to receive pay for them.
Monthly pay will be increased by an average of ITL 43,000 from 1 July 1999 and by an average of ITL 42,000 from 1 July 2000, with a total increase of ITL 85,000.
On industrial relations, the agreement provides that:
- the industrial relations system is articulated around three levels - national, territorial and company;
- both Rsu workplace employee representative bodies and territorial trade union organisations are allowed to take part in company bargaining;
- the system for informing employee representatives is updated and rationalised;
- the possibilities for workers to take part part in vocational training initiatives are increased and the use of fixed-term contracts is regulated.
The Minister of Labour stated that the solution of this long and difficult dispute was "an investment in the future", adding that "the negotiations were a good thing both for the partners and for the industrial relations system." Amdrea Pininfarina, the president of Federmeccanica, said that "it was possible to do more, nevertheless the results obtained which introduce flexibility at bargaining level should not be underestimated." The trade unions too are satisfied with the agreement. Giorgio Caprioli, the general secretary of Fim-Cisl asserted that "this agreement is the first one of the new generation that deals with rules and personal rights of the workers and not only with income redistribution."
The negotiations which led to the signature of an agreement for the 300,000 workers in the 35,000 companies of the food sector were easier than those in metalworking. Here, the Flai-Cgil, Fat-Cisl and Uila-Uil union federations and Federalimantari, affiliated to Confindustria, signed the agreement on 5 June 1999 after six days of talks.
The agreement provides for: the creation of an observatory to analyse the problems of the food sector, managed jointly by trade unions and employers; an average pay increase of ITL 80,000 per month: and the strengthening of second-level (company and territorial) bargaining, with job-classification systems and working time now open to negotiation at this level. Employers that do not negotiate performance-related pay at company level will have to award workers a bonus of ITL 27,000.
Uliano Stendardi, the general secretary of Fat-Cisl, underlined the importance acquired by second-level bargaining and said that the agreement is "the first step towards the innovation of the bargaining system". Ettore Fortuna, the vice-president of Federaliamentare, said that the deal "is an important agreement which was signed in a climate of normal relations"