Commerce sector agreement seeks to regulate telework

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A new collective agreement in Italy's commerce sector, signed in June 1997, provides for equal pay and career opportuntities for those workers who agree to teleworking.

An agreement was signed on 20 June 1997 by the commerce workers' trade union organisations - Filcams-Cgil, Fisascat-Cisl and UiItucs-Uil- and the sector's main employers' organisation - Confcommercio- regulates for the first time telework (telelavoro). Previously, Italy's only agreements on teleworking - both in industry and in commerce - were at company level. The new agreement states that it marks "a change in the ways of providing a work service, since the traditional measures of space and time are modified, due to the adoption of computers and/or telematic tools".

The commerce agreement guarantees that for those engaged in teleworking, both at home as well as in special centres outside the enterprises, the contractual rules set by the industry-wide agreement for all workers in the distribution sector are valid. Therefore, there is full equality with workers operating inside firms, both in terms of salary and of career opportunities. Equal conditions must also be guaranteed for access to vocational training.

Teleworking can concern new employees or workers who already work for a company. It cannot be imposed on the worker, but can only be proposed by the enterprise to the worker, who is free to accept or refuse it voluntarily. The possibility of a teleworker returning to work in the company after a set time is also foreseen.

The company can exercise control from a distance, but it has to follow criteria of absolute transparency. The teleworker has to work with diligence and discretion, and cannot carry out work for his or her own sake or for a third party or in competition with the company by which he or she is employed.

Teleworkers have the same trade union and training rights as those who work within the company. With reference to this point, a trade union bulletin discussing the agreement put forward the example of the US-based information technology group, Digital Equipment, which carries out an important part of its activity through telework and "has developed an electronic notice board for trade union news".

Finally, the agreement extends the contractual and legislative rules on health and safety and includes insurance against injury for the places in which telework occurs, and for the people that have access to them.

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