Agreement on productivity and employment signed at Zanussi

Download article in original language : IT9712141NIT.DOC

In December 1997, an agreement was signed by Electrolux-Zanussi and metalworkers' trade unions, aimed at increasing productivity and keeping all of the group's Italian plants in operation.

An agreement was signed on 6 December 1997 by Electrolux-Zanussi, the Italian operation of the Swedish-owned domestic appliances group, and the metalworking sector trade unions - Fiom-Cgil, Fim-Cisl and Uilm-Uil- at the Labour Ministry in Rome. The deal, which was reached with the help of the Labour Minister's mediation, averts the closure of any of the group's Italian plants and greatly increases its overall productivity level in Italy.

The bargaining process was initiated in Italy following a meeting between Electrolux group management and its European Works Council on 24 November 1997, in which management announced that it would be necessary to close down some of its Italian plants and production lines. This decision was made by the company in reaction to a stagnation of markets, excess productive capacity and a competitive deficit. Overall, the group planned the closure of 15 plants located in countries both within and outside Europe. The plan follows a round of restructuring launched earlier in 1997, which led to an initial agreement in September 1997 to protect jobs at some Italian plants (IT9710134N).

The December agreement in Italy takes a positive approach to dealing with the group's problems and in particular provides for:

  • an increase of 12% in labour productivity, to be achieved through improving flexibility and reducing labour costs;
  • the setting-up of "time saving accounts" in which workers will be able to collect time off in lieu for overtime hours worked (rather than being paid for them), in order to use them at their leisure either as time off or to bring forward their retirement date;
  • newly-recruited workers will receive a lower wage than the minimum level set by company-level bargaining, for the first 24 months of employment;
  • for newly-recruited workers who work in plants in which the working week is less than 36 hours, an "entry working hours" schemes will be adopted, which means payment for the hours actually worked instead of the 40 hours a week outlined in the contract;
  • all newly-recruited workers will participate in vocational training activities both in the classroom and on the job of at least 40 hours a year, outside working hours;
  • 40 experiments with teleworking will be launched throughout the group's companies;
  • creches will be set up in all of the group's plants for workers' children, to be run by qualified teachers; and
  • a surplus of 374 workers (including management, white-collar workers and blue-collar workers) has been identified as being able to carry out other activities.

The company confirmed that there will be no plant closures in Italy, while the consequences for plants outside of Italy could result in a share of their production being shifted to the Italian plants - the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper claims that this could lead to employment increases of 2,000 jobs.

The president of Electrolux, Gian Mario Rossignolo said in Il Sole 24 Ore (on 7 December) that: "the agreement makes us stronger because it allows us to make significant recoveries in productivity without affecting employment levels too much."

The trade unions were also satisfied with the results of the agreement. In a joint declaration to Il Sole 24 Ore, Gaetano Sateriale (Fiom), Antonio Brenna (Fim) and Antonio Messia (Uilm) stated that the agreement means most notably that the Italian Zanussi plants have managed to avoid being on the international list of cuts decided by Electrolux.

The Electrolux restructuring process has had an important impact elsewhere in Europe, such as in Spain - see ES9711233N.

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