New national agreement signed for garment and textiles sector

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In April 2004, a new national collective agreement was signed for Italy's garment and textiles sector, which employs 650,000 workers. The deal provides for: an average monthly pay increase of EUR 87 over two years; the creation of new joint bodies; improved information and consultation rights; rules on using new forms of employment; and improved maternity pay.

On 24 April 2004, after a six months of negotiations, a new national sectoral collective agreement for 650,000 workers employed in the textiles and garment sector was signed by the sectoral employers' organisations and the relevant trade union organisations affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacato Lavoratori, Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil) - Filtea, Femca and Uilta respectively. The pay part of the agreement will be renewed after two years (31 December 2005), while the part dealing with other matters will run for four years, expiring on 31 December 2007.

A key innovation is that the agreement seeks to make the sector's industrial relations systems more 'participatory', setting up two new joint bodies:

  • a national joint observatory (Osservatorio nazionale bilaterale). Six representatives of Femca-Cisl, Filtea-Cgil and Uilta-Uil, and six representatives of the employers' organisations will sit on the 'strategic steering committee' which will guide the observatory's activities. The observatory will provide trade unions and companies with the sectoral data and economic and production scenarios necessary to conduct bargaining. It will be possible to use external experts in order to achieve these objectives, and the observatory's activity may be articulated at regional and local levels; and
  • a national joint training body (Organismo nazionale bilaterale per la formazione, Obnf), which will define national, local and company-level training projects. It will be possible to set up an Obnf at both regional and local levels and to use external experts. The Obnf will also promote specific training initiatives aimed at establishing equal opportunities.

The new agreement also provides for the extension of information and consultation rights. In companies with at least 60 employees, union delegates will be able to have access to corporate information. Unitary workplace union structure s (rappresentanze sindacali unitarie, Rsus) (IT0309304T) will be also able to request information, on an annual basis, about the 'productive decentralisation' of the company, and in particular about possible relocations abroad. This is a very important area of information given the fact that the textiles and garments sector is heavily 'globalised'.

The agreement defines new rules on various forms of employment, applying aspects of the 2003 'Biagi' labour market reform law (IT0307204F). The agreement notably deals with:

  • conditions and procedures for fixed-term-contracts. If these contracts exceed 12 working days a written document will be necessary. In companies with fewer than 70 employees, fixed-term contracts must not exceed 10% of the whole workforce, while in companies with over 70 employees they must not exceed 5%. It will be possible to increase these percentages through a company agreement. Fixed-term workers will be able to take part in the textiles and garments sector supplementary pensions fund ( Previmoda );
  • conditions and procedures for apprenticeship and training, organised by occupational level;
  • the use of fixed-term 'staff leasing' contracts (contratti di somministrazione di lavoro) - a new scheme introduced by the Biagi law whereby companies may 'lease' the workers they need for technical, productive or organisational reasons from employment agencies. Over a period of 12 months, the average number of workers employed on this form of employment may not exceed 8% of the workers employed on an open-ended contract in a company. Alternatively, it will be possible to use temporary agency workers, provided that the number does not exceed the total number of fixed-term contracts in the company;
  • the use of 'integration contracts' (contratti di inserimento), formerly known as work/training contracts. These will be used to train young workers under the age of 29 and to reintegrate into the labour market long-term unemployed people, workers with disabilities and women living in areas with a high unemployment rate;
  • promotion of part-time work. Provisions on the use of part-time work have been made less strict and more flexible. Part-time contracts may not exceed 8% of the total full-time workforce of a company; and
  • conditions and procedures for job-sharing and telework.

The agreement provides for an average monthly pay increase of EUR 87 over two years. Of this, 40% will be paid on 1 April 2004, 30% on 1 February 2005 and 30% on 1 August 2005.

A working group will redefine the sector's job classification system using methodologies already applied elsewhere at national and European level. A specific protocol to the agreement deals with combating harassment and bullying at the workplace. Finally, maternity pay has been harmonised for all employees (white- and blue-collar) at 100% of pay during the five months of maternity leave (taken before and after the birth). According to Sergio Spiller, deputy general secretary of Femca-Cisl, 'this last aspect of the agreement is a further step forward towards equality in the textiles sector, which is mainly composed of women.'

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