Job-sharing introduced at Ferrero

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In October 2002, a new company agreement was signed by trade unions and management at the Italian confectionery group, Ferrero. The agreement contains a number of innovations, notably the experimental introduction of job-sharing, variable pay and the future establishment of new joint bodies.

The Ferrero group is Italy's leading confectionery manufacturer, with a turnover of about EUR 1.6 billion, and around 6,000 employees in its four Italian plants. On 9 October 2002, Ferrero and the food sector trade unions affiliated to the three main confederations - Fai-Cisl, Flai-Cgil and Uila-Uil- signed a supplementary company agreement which introduces a number of important innovations.

The agreement confirmed the present two-tier bargaining structure at national/sectoral and decentralised levels. The national sectoral agreement for the food industry will be considered as the reference framework for decentralised bargaining within Ferrero. The agreement acknowledges the positive role played by existing joint bodies at local and national levels (IT9810182N), and seeks to enhance this role and eventually to set up new bodies. The signatories highlight the importance of training and its role in maintaining the company’s competitivenesss, and the agreement thus provides for:

  • joint training addressed to company managers and workers’ representatives on the unitary workplace union structure (Rappresentanze sindacali unitarie, Rsu); and
  • vocational and continuing training addressed to workers.

However, the main innovation in the agreement is the introduction of new employment schemes such as job-sharing and of new elements of flexibility, especially as regards fixed-term contracts.

Over 2003-4, an experiment with job-sharing schemes - whereby two workers share the same position - will be conducted at the Ferrero plant at Alba (in Cuneo, Piedmont). The experiment will concern two specific categories of workers:

  • working mothers hired on full-time open-ended contracts who have completed their period of compulsory or voluntary maternity leave, in the time until the third birthday of their child; and
  • workers hired on full time open-ended contracts with serious and documented health problems.

The experimental job sharing schemes will initially last one year. At the end of this period, the workers and the company’s managers will meet to verify if both workers engaged in each job-share still have the necessary job-sharing requisites.

The agreement confirms the hiring procedures applied at Ferrero, which generally proceed along the following stages:

  1. fixed-term employment relationships, on the basis of local agreements;
  2. 'vertical part-time' (ie full-time work in only certain periods during the week, month or year) open-ended employment relationships, on the basis of local agreements; and
  3. full-time open-ended employment relationships.

The partners acknowledge the efficiency of this procedure and have now decided to widen the grounds on which company may recruit on the basis of fixed-term employment relationships. In addition to the current rules, the new agreement, therefore, allows for the use of fixed-term contracts in the following cases:

  • for working needs linked to
    • technical, productive and/or organisational experimentation,
    • new investment and/or changes to existing lines,
    • extraordinary maintenance work,
    • commercial, logistic and distributive initiatives, as well as initiatives aimed at improving the quality of Ferrero products;
  • for major increases in workloads due to cyclical events; and
  • for activities linked to promotional projects.

Furthermore, the agreement provides for the recruitment, during its validity (up to June 2006) of 150 workers on open-ended contracts.

Finally, the accord provides for additional payments linked to objectives. Of the total payment, 30% will be linked to the company's return on sales (which indicates the company’s profitability), while the remaining 70% will be linked to indicators related to quality, rejects and freshness.

The signatories take a positive view of the agreement, and especially of the positive bargaining climate which allowed the signature of the agreement in less than a month. Uliano Stendardi, the deputy general secretary of Fai-Cisl, stated in relation to the introduction of job-sharing that: 'we believe we made a step forward in industrial relations, meeting the needs of those workers, women in particular, who have many family obligations which they intend to fulfil.'

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